Many of us have probably experienced influenza (the flu) at some point. Sometimes we really know it, sometimes we don’t. Previous data has even found that in a typical influenza season (winter) as many as 10 to 40% of all children get exposed or actually get influenza in a given year.

Sometimes the infection from influenza is mild (“just a cold”) but sometimes it’s a horrific long-lasting-high-fever-achy-pneumonia-hospital-causing infection. Sometimes it’s worse. Hard to predict why we all don’t experience the same virus the same way each time we’re exposed.

Those under age 5 and those over 65 years of age are at highest risk from influenza. The reason: young children have an unexposed, immature immune system that doesn’t work as well fighting against influenza as a 12 year-old where as the elderly have a tired immune system that just doesn’t work as well as it did during young adulthood. Each year children die from the flu that could have been prevented. The flu vaccine isn’t perfect in protection, and this year it’s got about a 50% chance of totally protecting you — far better than 0% when you don’t get it at all!

New data out proves that flu vaccine helps prevent death in children. News any mom or parent or pediatrician wants to hear and share.

For infants and elders, the flu can be deadly. For new babies, pertussis (whooping cough) can be, too. The good news is that these illnesses are vaccine-preventable. This post is just a reminder of the power of vaccines to prevent pain and suffering and new data that continues to support our use of whooping cough shots during pregnancy for moms and babies and flu vaccines for children every year.

Two studies from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) highlight just this by establishing vaccine effectiveness for reducing death and serious infection. Take these as reminders of why we vaccinate our children and ourselves!

Protecting Children From The Flu

  • At least 61 children have already died from the flu this season.
  • The flu is most dangerous to those younger than 5 years old and those older than 65 years old.
  • The new study evaluated vaccination status in nearly 300 of 358 pediatric deaths related to a flu virus 2010-2014 and found only 26% of these children who died received the flu vaccine prior to getting sick. The flu vaccine likely prevents deaths we never have to hear about.

Protecting Children From Whooping Cough

  • 2,700 infants under 1 year old had whooping cough (3 died) in 2015.
  • Whooping cough is most dangerous for infants younger than 2 months of age as it can causes pauses or even a stop to their breathing.
  • Immunizing pregnant moms between 27 and 36 weeks protects pregnant moms from getting whooping cough and helps create immunity that they pass onto their baby even before they are born.
  • AAP reports that Tdap (tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid, acellular pertussis) vaccination during pregnancy protects 88% of infants from getting whooping cough.
  • Getting vaccinated during pregnancy is also 85% more effective than when moms get the vaccine after pregnancy (cocooning). Cocooning –making sure everyone in your family is protected with whooping cough shot (Tdap or DTaP in younger children) still makes sense but more and more data prove that immunizing pregnant moms is a better strategy for protecting newborns from serious infection and death.

What To Know

  • Influenza vaccine can reduce flu deaths in children! You and your child should get the influenza vaccine (“flu shot”) every fall.
  • The flu vaccine reduces flu-associated child deaths by 65% (50% for children with high-risk conditions such as neurologic conditions, lung problems, immune problems, etc).
  • The Tdap shot during pregnancy is the best way to protect babies during their precious first months. When moms don’t get this vaccination at the end of pregnancy, a baby’s pertussis antibodies (provided via their mom’s blood) may decline substantially by 6 weeks of age. This leaves them vulnerable during the months prior to receiving their DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis) series beginning at 2 moths of age.

These studies continue to show that immunizations save lives! Check in with your nurse, family doctor or pediatrician about either of these vaccinations (especially if you’re a parent-to-be) and protect your family as well as the community.