In the summer of 2002, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the CDC have both changed their recommendations for the flu vaccine in children. Both groups urge that the flu vaccine be given this year to all healthy children aged 6 to 23 months, because children in this age group have a high likelihood of hospitalization if they get the flu.
Previously, the vaccine was recommended routinely only for children with chronic medical conditions that put them at high risk, or for those children who were in close contact with people at high risk.
The new recommendations come at the same time that a significant side benefit of the flu vaccine has been called into question. Earlier studies have strongly suggested that the vaccine dramatically prevents ear infections. An unpublished, yet news-making, study of 793 children aged 6 to 24 months, presented at the May 2002 meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, reports no decrease in ear infections, doctor’s visits, ER visits, antibiotic prescriptions, ill family members, or missed work, school, or daycare in those that received the vaccine.
However, all children in the study, whether they had the vaccine or the placebo, had doctor’s visits every 2 weeks throughout the season. These visits may themselves have exposed kids to infections, decreased other doctor’s visits, and skewed the results.
This year the vaccine will be offered in October during the start of the flu season.