Thursday, March 08, 2007

Article on Flu Shots for Asthma Kids

This article just caught my eye on Yahoo! Health. It's about how children with asthma should get flu shots, but very few do.

I have a number of thoughts on this, especially since I have an egg-allergic child on the autistic spectrum (the vaccines are grown in fertilized chicken eggs).

  • Thought #1: Perhaps if all flu shots were thimerosal-free, I wouldn't think twice about it. But thimerosal-free vaccines are only an option -- and not all insurance companies cover them.
  • Thought #2: Flu strains mutate over the course of a single season. The vaccines are selected on the assumption that the strains covered will be effective for that season. It's not always accurate. Even if you decide to vaccinate, you're not guaranteed a flu-free season.

Given the risks the flu poses to asthmatic kids, I'm pretty well pro-vaccine if you can go Mercury-free. Just know that it's not a perfect solution.

Now here's article:


ildren with asthma should get flu shots to protect them, but only 3 in 10 do, U.S. health officials said Thursday.

We were surprised at how low the number was," said Susan Brim of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lead author of a study that looked at flu shot data from 2005.

The study represents the first national estimates on flu vaccination rates for asthmatic children.

Children with asthma, a chronic lung problem marked by wheezing, coughing and labored breathing, can die from flu complications, such as pneumonia and acute respiratory disease. And they are at higher risk for those problems. Inactivated flu vaccine is recommended for asthmatic children older than six months.

The study's findings came from an analysis of a 2005 national survey of the parents of children ages 2 to 17. About 5,100 kids were represented in the data, and 557 of them had asthma.

Only 29 percent of the asthmatic children had gotten flu shots during the 2004-05 flu season. The lowest vaccination rates were among children ages 5 to 12 who had not had an asthma attack or episode in the previous year.

The survey came after a flu vaccine shortage that caused long waiting lines for shots. Brim said it's not clear what impact that had on the study results: Asthmatic children were prioritized for the scarce shots, so the shortage may not have hurt — and possibly might even have boosted — vaccination rates that year, she said.

The low rates may have to do with family's misperceptions about flu shots, said Dr. Gerald Teague, a pediatric pulmonary specialist at Emory University.

Many patients seem to mistakenly believe flu shots can trigger asthma attacks or flu symptoms, and it's important that doctors talk to families and address such concerns, Teague said.

"Influenza in a child or adult with asthma can be fatal," he said.

...Nothing like ending things on a positive note!

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