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Many parents don't realize how deadly flu can be

Staff writer |
Only about four out of 10 U.S. babies aged 6 months to 23 months are getting vaccinated against the flu, federal health officials reported.

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Between the 2002-2003 and 2011-2012 flu seasons, the number of infants who received flu shots increased from just under 5 percent to almost 45 percent, according to a new study. However, that falls far short of the recommendation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that children 6 months and older get a flu shot every year.

"While flu vaccination for children has gone up, there is still a long way to go to protect every child," said study lead researcher Tammy Santibanez, an epidemiologist with CDC's National Immunization Program.

"We also know that more effort needs to be put into encouraging black parents and children, and Hispanic parents and children to get the flu vaccine," she said.

Flu is a serious and potentially life-threatening illness. Each year an average of 20,000 children under 5 years of age are hospitalized because of complications from the flu. During last year's flu season, more than 140 children died from flu, the CDC said.

Depending on age and vaccination history, children need either one or two doses of vaccine to be fully protected. Some children 6 months through 8 years of age need two doses, including those being vaccinated for the first time, the CDC says. The agency recommends that you check with your doctor to see if your child needs two doses.

In the 10 flu seasons studied, black and Hispanic children had lower rates of vaccination than white children, Santibanez said. Complete vaccination coverage was higher among children who needed only one dose, compared with those requiring two doses.

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