September 27, 2018
Influenza vaccination rates for Minnesota children up in 2017-18, but too many still at risk
MDH, pediatricians join #FightFlu campaign to get more children vaccinated
Slightly more Minnesota children received vaccinations for influenza in the 2017-18 flu season compared to the previous season, according to national data released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, health officials remain concerned that too many children still remain unvaccinated for influenza each year. That leaves children vulnerable to serious illness and even death from influenza and its potential complications.
CDC released the National Immunization Survey (NIS) data today as part of its kick-off of the #FightFlu campaign, a partnership with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) and others to protect more Americans from influenza this year. As part of that effort, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and partners are taking part in a #FightFlu Twitterstorm from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. today.
According to CDC estimates from the NIS, approximately 62 percent of Minnesota children between the ages of 6 months and 17 years received vaccinations during the 2017-18 influenza season. That rate was similar to but up slightly from estimates for the previous two years, which were just over 60 percent. The overall national rate of coverage was 57.9 percent, a decrease of 1.1 percentage points from the previous season. The survey showed that vaccination coverage varied by state and age group.
“Protecting slightly more Minnesota children from influenza last year is good news, especially given the lack of a no-shot, nasal spray option, but we still have too many children left unprotected from this potentially serious disease,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. “The flu vaccine protects those who receive it as well as those in the community who cannot be vaccinated due to medical conditions.”
Five children died from influenza or related complications during last year’s flu season, and more than 6,400 Minnesotans of all ages were hospitalized for influenza. CDC says 74 percent of the 172 pediatric deaths nationwide in 2017-18 involved unvaccinated children. Most of them did not have any underlying health conditions. Health officials noted that these numbers underscore how severe influenza can be and that vaccination is the best tool we have to fight influenza.
“Since children can’t make the decision to get vaccinated themselves, it’s up to parents and health care providers to make it happen,” MDH Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann said. “Parents should ask their health care provider about influenza vaccine and providers should check the vaccination status of patients at every visit and strongly recommend vaccination.”
MDH is partnering with pediatricians to get more children vaccinated against influenza this year.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children ages 6 months and older receive the flu vaccine each year, ideally by the end of October,” said Dr. Lori DeFrance, president of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (MNAAP). “Parents should be aware that the flu can cause serious complications -- even in healthy children. The flu vaccine is the best way to protect them from outbreaks in schools, daycares and communities.”
The survey’s data for Minnesota show differences in coverage between age groups. The rate for children 6 months through 4 years (75 percent) is significantly higher than the rate for children 5 through 12 years (65 percent). Coverage falls even more for adolescents 13-17 years (50 percent). That suggests influenza vaccination may be related to “convenience” or how often children of different ages visit their health care provider. It’s more difficult to get school-age children in to see a provider during the school year.
Ehresmann noted that there are greater opportunities for influenza vaccination today so there are fewer excuses for not vaccinating children, especially school-age children and adolescents. “Many clinics will be offering walk-in hours for influenza vaccine over the next few months, so check with your home clinic,” Ehresmann said. “Also, most pharmacies and convenience clinics offer walk-in vaccinations for influenza. Some local public health agencies also offer the vaccine.”
It’s a good idea to call ahead and make sure that your clinic has vaccine formulations available if you have younger children, because they need specific types of vaccine. Pharmacists can vaccinate children 6 years and older.
More information on the national influenza vaccination coverage data can be found on CDC VaxView website. More information on influenza and influenza vaccination can be found at www.mdhflu.com. Go to our Vaccine Clinic Look-Up site for links to search for vaccination clinics near you, including clinics that offer free or low-cost vaccines.