North Dakota pediatric influenza vaccination rates lagging behind previous years

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The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) urges parents to get children vaccinated against influenza. Getting vaccinated has been shown to reduce illness, doctor visits, missed days of work and school. Influenza vaccine also decreases the risk of flu-related hospitalization and death in children.

“According to the North Dakota Immunization Information System (NDIIS), 13,000 fewer doses of influenza vaccine have been administered to children this fall compared to the same time last year. During the 2020-2021 influenza season, childhood influenza vaccination rates were 61%, a decline from the 2019-2020 season of 69.1%,” said NDDoH Immunization Surveillance Coordinator, Danielle Pinnick.

“Influenza is not a stomach bug, as many commonly believe. It is a common respiratory disease spread through coughs, sneezes, shared saliva and the touching of contaminated surfaces,” said Dr. Nizar Wehbi, ND State Health Officer. “Children are especially vulnerable to influenza. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to be effective and peak flu season is ahead. For maximum protection, it is important that parents seek out a flu vaccine for their child as soon as possible.”

The severity of influenza can range from mild to deadly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that from the 2010-2011 season to the 2019-2020 season, flu-related hospitalizations in children younger than age 5 have ranged from 7,000 to 26,000 in the U.S. The CDC’s most recent FluView reports an increase in flu activity that could mark the beginning of the 2021-2022 flu season.

Everyone who is older than six months of age is recommended to be vaccinated against influenza. Children younger than nine who are receiving the vaccine for the first time this year are recommended to have a two-dose series. Children younger than age five, American Indian children, and those with underlying health conditions, including asthma and diabetes, are at higher risk for flu-related complications. Children younger than six months of age cannot be vaccinated against influenza, which is why those who are pregnant or who will be around infants should be vaccinated.

Influenza vaccinations are offered at most North Dakota pharmacies, clinics and local public health units. For assistance finding influenza vaccines near you, please visit vaccines.gov or contact your primary care provider.

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