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85% of Children Who Died of Flu Last Year Were Unvaccinated

Written by Jessica Lanerie, M.D. on Oct 24, 2018 2:17:42 PM

Children and the elderly don’t have the strong immune system most others have. When an illness sweeps across the country, they are often the most affected. This is why it’s incredibly important to make sure your child has his or her flu vaccination as early as possible. Last year, 85 percent of the children who died from the flu were unvaccinated and  one unvaccinated child has already died this year. These are heartbreaking statistics, but hopefully we can reduce this through education and awareness. 

Why Are Children Vulnerable?

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There are many reasons children are more vulnerable to any illness. The biggest issue is that as you age, your immune system strengthens. Because children are young, their immune system hasn’t grown into the powerhouse it will likely become in their 20s or 30s. 

Another reason children are more vulnerable is they’re at an increased risk of getting the flu in the first place. Children have an increased exposure to germs compared to adults. They share germs not only with their families, but with other children and their families as well, putting them at greater risk of infection with an already-greater risk of not being able to fight it off. Some kids aren’t able to be vaccinated because of other illnesses, their age, or complications they might have, which is why it’s imperative everyone who can be vaccinated does so, especially close family – to help protect those who can’t get the vaccine. 

Lastly, kids are more likely to die from the flu because early diagnosis can be difficult. Behavior that deviates from their normal actions could be a variety of things – from teething to colic. While you can’t “cure” the flu, the symptoms can be treated, and addressing them early in kids is so important. 

The Bottom Line

The flu vaccine helps save lives. With flu season approaching, now’s the time to get your children vaccinated. 

Bear in mind that even if your children are vaccinated again influenza, there is still a chance of contracting the flu – though it will likely be a much less serious case of shorter duration. Here are symptoms to watch for: 

  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Runny nose
  • Vomiting
  • Crankiness
  • Fever

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If you notice any of those, get to the doctor immediately. Prescription medication such as Tamiflu, taken within 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms, may help shorten the length of illness. This doesn’t include antibiotics, which cannot help flu symptoms since the flu is caused by a virus and antibiotics only treat bacterial infections. 

Talk to your pediatrician about any concerns or questions you have about vaccination. 


Dr. Jessica Lanerie is a pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Sienna Plantation Clinic. After receiving her medical degree from Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Medicine in 2013, Dr. Lanerie completed a residency in Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in 2016. Her clinical interests include weight management, asthma, and eczema. 


Topics: influenza, seasonal flu, unvaccinated

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