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October 1, 2007

U-M Health Minute: Today's top health issues and medical research

Record number of kids expected to get flu vaccine this year

C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health finds parents more likely to vaccinate kids if they plan to vaccinate themselves against flu

ANN ARBOR, MI – Flu vaccination rates among children are expected to hit an all-time high this season, and parents who plan to vaccinate themselves are much more likely to vaccinate their young children against the flu, new research finds.  However, only half of high-risk adults plan to get the recommended flu vaccination.

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According to the latest report from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, 65 percent of parents plan to have their young children – those up to 5 years of age – vaccinated against the flu during the 2007-08 season. Nearly all parents polled who plan to get the flu vaccine themselves also intend to have their young children vaccinated.

Matthew M. Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the National Poll on Children’s Health, says this planned vaccination rate represents a significant increase from the 47 percent of parents who reported that their young children got the flu vaccine in 2006-07.

“Our results show that the country is doing a good job in terms of getting the youngest children vaccinated against influenza. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s message is clearly getting across to parents that children in this particular age group should be getting the flu vaccine,” says Davis, associate professor of general pediatrics and internal medicine at the U-M Medical School, and associate professor of public policy at the U-M Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

Beginning this flu season, the CDC has extended its flu vaccine recommendation to include all children ages 6 months to 5 years, a group nearly twice as likely as older children to be hospitalized for the flu. The CDC also recommends that elderly persons and younger adults with chronic diseases receive the flu vaccine.

To find out if more parents plan to get their children vaccinated against the flu this year, the National Poll on Children’s Health, in collaboration with Knowledge Networks Inc., conducted a national online survey in August 2007. The poll asked adults about their flu vaccination plans for themselves and their children. As part of the poll, parents were informed either that the CDC now recommends flu vaccine for all children 6 months up to 5 years old, or that children younger than 5 years are twice as likely to need to be hospitalized for the flu as older children.

The survey was administered to a random sample of 2,060 adults, ages 18 and older, who are a part of Knowledge Network’s online KnowledgePanelSM. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect U.S. population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. About two-thirds of the sample were parents.

Health Minute ImageBased on survey results, Davis says the CDC’s message about the importance of vaccinating children ages 6 months to 5 years is clearly getting across. The poll found that nearly two out of three households plan on vaccinating their children in that age group against flu this coming season, a substantial increase from previous years. The poll also revealed that planned vaccination rates for 2007-08 were even higher for children ages 0 to 5 with chronic conditions (73 percent).

The poll also showed that among parents whose children did not receive the flu vaccine in 2006-07, 32 percent plan to vaccinate their children, 0-5 years, against the flu this season. Additionally, 95 percent of parents who plan to get the flu vaccine themselves intend to have their children vaccinated. Even among parents who do not plan on getting the flu vaccine themselves, 45 percent say they plan to vaccinate their children in 2007-08.

Still, there are some parents who do not plan to vaccinate their children against the flu this season. The No. 1 reason for not getting their children vaccinated: 39 percent say they believe their children are healthy and don’t need the flu vaccine. Another 27 percent of parents felt a flu vaccine was not necessary because there are medications available to treat the flu, should their child become sick.  Says Davis, “Evidently some parents feel that their children are healthy and don’t need flu vaccine.  However, what some parents may not recognize is how quickly influenza can become a serious illness, even for previously healthy children.”

Beyond asking parents about their plans for vaccination for themselves and their children, the poll also sought to learn more about anticipated vaccination rates among elderly people and adults with chronic health conditions.

The poll revealed the more than half of all adults with chronic conditions – and 85 percent of adults over age 65 – plan to get the flu vaccine this season.  

With more high-risk adults and record numbers of children planning to get vaccinated against the flu, many may be wondering if there will be enough vaccine to go around.

“The CDC estimates that there are going to be as many as 132 million doses of flu vaccine available in the 2007-08 flu season,” says Davis. “Based on results from our national poll, we estimate that at least 115 million people will be looking for flu vaccine doses. Therefore, we expect the supply of influenza vaccine this year to be sufficient.”

The best way to protect yourself and your family against the flu is to get a flu shot or the nasal vaccine – recommended for healthy people ages 5 to 49 – that is now available. In September, the FDA licensed the nasal flu vaccine for children ages 2 to 5. “For people who haven’t gotten their vaccine yet and for some people who can’t get the vaccine because they’ve had a reaction to it in the past, I always recommend good hand-washing practices or the use of hand sanitizer throughout the flu season to protect against the flu,” notes Davis.

About the National Poll on Children’s Health
The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health is funded by the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases at the U-M Health System. As part of the U-M Division of General Pediatrics CHEAR Unit , the National Poll on Children’s Health is designed to measure major health care issues and trends for U.S. children. For a copy of the reports from the National Poll on Children’s Health, visit www.chear.umich.edu. For regular podcasts of polling results, go to www.med.umich.edu/podcast.

About Knowledge Networks
Knowledge Networks delivers quality and service to guide leaders in business, government and academia – uniquelybringing scientifically valid research to the online space through its probability-based, online KnowledgePanelSM. The company delivers unique study design, science, analysis, and panel maintenance, along with a commitment to close collaboration at every stage of the research process. KN leverages its expertise in brands, media, advertising, and public policy issues to provide insights that speak directly to clients’ most important concerns. For more information about KN, visit www.knowledgenetworks.com

Facts about the common cold and flu:

  • The common cold and the flu are two different illnesses.
  • Both colds and flu are caused by viruses, and both tend to spread widely in late fall and early winter — just in time to wreck the holidays for many people. Because they’re caused by viruses, antibiotics won’t work against them.
  • Cold symptoms usually include coughs and sneezes, increased mucus in the nose that causes it to run or become congested, and fever. Flu symptoms come on very suddenly, and include sore throats, muscle aches throughout the body, coughing, headache and fever.
  • There’s no vaccine against the common cold, but there is a flu vaccine.
  • Many older and chronically ill people who get the flu go on to develop pneumonia, which can be serious and even fatal. That’s why people over 65, and younger people with chronic conditions, should get a pneumonia vaccine at least once in their lifetime.
  • If you get a cold or flu, there are three main ways to keep from spreading your virus to others: Clean your hands often, cover your mouth and nose with a sleeve or tissue when you cough or sneeze, and stay home when you’re feeling ill. Dispose of tissues immediately.
  • To protect yourself from colds and the flu, make sure to clean your hands often, especially before eating. Avoid touching your eyes or nose with unclean hands.
  • For most people with colds and the flu, the emergency room is not the place to get treated. But if you have chest pain, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, get to an ER.

For more information, visit these Web sites:
C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health

U-M Health Topics A-Z: Flu

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: Flu

KidsHealth: Flu

Written by Krista Hopson

 

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