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More Flu Shots Urged

More Flu Shots UrgedCiting increased hospitalization of children, a new policy by the American Academy of Pediatrics – written by a Tufts doctor – calls for expanded flu shots among kids.

Boston [12.02.02] Breaking from its previous guidelines, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a new policy for vaccinating children against the flu which recommends significantly more children be immunized. Citing high numbers of children who are hospitalized for the illness every year, a team led by Tufts' Dr. Cody Meissner developed an expanded policy that calls for all healthy children between six months and two years old to be vaccinated, not just those at high risk.

"[The Academy's] policy ... is based on recent data showing that young children are hospitalized with influenza at least as often as adults over 50, for whom yearly flu shots are recommended," reported the Associated Press.

Until this year, the Academy limited its policy to just children at high risk -- including those with asthma or other chronic diseases -- fearing that wider calls for vaccinations would deplete supplies of the flu shots too quickly.

But new data about the wide-spread impact of the flu prompted a change.

"It recently has become clear that healthy children younger than 24 months are at as great a risk of influenza-associated hospitalization as are previously recognized high-risk groups," Meissner wrote in the Academy's new policy.

According to the infectious disease expert, who is an associate professor at the Tufts School of Medicine, tens of thousands of children under two years old become so sick with the flu that they require hospital care.

Even if children received a flu shot in the past, they should be vaccinated again.

"Unlike most childhood vaccines, flu shots are needed every year because the virus changes so often," reported the Associated Press story, which ran in newspapers around the country. "Youngsters should get two doses four weeks apart to make sure they're adequately protected, [Meissner said.] One shot yearly is recommended for older children, who are likely to have been exposed previously to the flu virus and are presumed to have developed immunity."

While babies less than six months old are also at risk, the shots are not yet proven safe for children that young, he said.

In addition to children, Meissner and his colleagues suggest that parents and caregivers also get immunized. The Academy has considered expanding the guidelines further, but is waiting for supplies of the vaccine to expand.

"Vaccine demand has been increasing, and therefore, a larger more dependable supply of vaccine is desirable before a universal recommendation for influenza immunization of young children is implemented," he wrote.


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