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Children Need Seasonal Flu Vaccine, Experts Say

Study finds vaccination rates lag behind recommended levels

THURSDAY, Oct. 1 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. health officials continue to stress the need to vaccinate children against seasonal flu, as well as swine flu.

An annual vaccine for seasonal flu is recommended for children 6 months to 18 years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Committee for Immunization Practices.

A report in the agency's Oct. 2 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report looked at pediatric vaccination rates for the 2008-09 flu season. It found that, among children 6 to 23 months old, 28.9 percent were fully vaccinated, whereas just 9.1 percent of 13- to 18-year-olds were fully vaccinated.

A second report looked at flu vaccine rates for children 6 to 23 months old during the 2007-08 flu season, which was the fourth season since the vaccine advisory committee had recommended routine vaccination for all children within that age range.

The findings: The percentage of children 6 to 23 months old who were fully vaccinated rose from 21.3 percent to 23.4 percent. But that's a figure that remains too low, the CDC said.

Also Thursday, the largest U.S. supplier of seasonal flu vaccines -- drug maker Sanofi Pasteur -- said it was experiencing delays shipping some of those vaccines, partly because of the demand to produce millions of doses of swine flu vaccine, the Associated Press reported.

The company said it had shipped more than half of the 50.5 million doses of seasonal flu vaccine ordered by U.S. health-care providers, adding that it could be November before some customers get the rest of their orders, the news service said.

Meanwhile, a new study published early in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that surgical masks are just as effective as respirators at protecting hospital personnel from infection with the flu.

The study included 446 nurses at eight hospitals in Ontario, Canada, who were randomly assigned last fall to wear either a surgical mask (225 nurses) or a fitted respirator (221 nurses), which they were to use when caring for patients with respiratory illness and fever. Flu infection occurred in 50 nurses (23.6 percent) in the surgical mask group and in 48 (22.9 percent) in the respirator group, the study found.

"Surgical masks had an estimated efficacy within 1 percent of N95 respirators," the study authors wrote, adding that the finding could be significant because respirators could be in short supply during a pandemic.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about seasonal flu.

-- HealthDay staff

SOURCES: Oct. 2, 2009, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta; Oct. 1, 2009, Journal of the American Medical Association, online; Associated Press

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