How important are flu shots for kids?

We are seeing flu cases already in metro Detroit and predictions about this year's flu season are dire because of what's happening in the southern hemisphere, Australia, specifically, has been hit hard with the flu.  Will it travel here? No one is certain, but the message is clear from the CDC - get the flu shot!

When it comes to kids, that shot can keep them out of the hospital.

"When we look at the vaccine effectiveness, for children, it's really good. About 61 to 65 percent of children, this vaccine is effective against them from getting hospitalized," says Dr. Frank Esper from Cleveland Clinic Children's.

Current recommendations say that any healthy child older than six months of age should receive an annual flu shot. Nasal flu mists are no longer recommended, because they have been much less effective.

Dr. Esper says that we often think of the flu as a minor illness, but the flu is very dangerous. In fact, it's one of the top infection-related deaths of children in the United States.

More than 100 children died from the flu last year, which is higher than the previous year. Children under the age of two are most at risk of being hospitalized from flu complications, as well as children with asthma, neurological problems, heart and lung disease, and those with compromised immune systems.

Dr. Esper says that parents should schedule their child's flu shot as soon as it's available so that it has time to take effect.

"It's not an immediate effect. It's not like you just gave a medication and you're now protected. It takes four weeks for your immune system to come up, and so, since we know that flu starts as early as November, we want to make sure that everybody is protected by September and October," he says.

So the time is now, and a lot of health agencies and drug stores have full stock.

Studies have shown that a large chunk of Americans remain skeptical about flu vaccinations, with only about 43 percent of adults in the U.S. getting the shot last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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