Flu vaccination cuts hospitalisation by half

Fully vaccinating children against influenza reduces their risk of hospitalisation by over 50 per cent, according to a study published on Wednesday.

Researchers noted that in Israel, as in the US, government guidelines recommend that children 8 or younger who have never been vaccinated, or who have only gotten one dose of flu vaccine previously, should receive two doses of vaccine.

Children vaccinated according to government guidelines are much better protected from influenza than those who only receive one vaccine, said Hannah Segaloff, a research fellow at the University of Michigan in the US.

"Over half of our study population had underlying conditions that may put them at high risk for severe influenza-related complications, so preventing influenza in this group is critically important," she said.

The study also showed that the vaccine was effective in three seasons with different circulating viruses, reinforcing the importance of getting an influenza vaccine every year no matter what virus is circulating.

It reviewed the vaccination data of 3,746 hospitalisations of children 6 months to 8 years old at six hospitals in Israel.

They were tested for influenza over three winter seasons, from 2015 to 2018.

The findings reveal that the flu vaccine reduced hospitalisations associated with the flu by 54 per cent.

The researchers said giving two vaccine doses to children up to age 8, who have never been vaccinated or only received one dose previously, is more effective than administering one dose.

"Young children are at high risk of hospitalisation due to influenza complications," said Mark Katz, an adjunct associate clinical professor at the Ben-Gurion University in Israel.

"Children with underlying illnesses such as asthma and heart disease have a greater risk of getting complications. It is important to prevent influenza infections in these populations," Katz said.

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