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Flu Vaccine: Protecting Maine kids? Better give it a shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending this year that all Maine children ages six months through 18 years receive the flu vaccine. Previously, it was advised that only children up to five years old be vaccinated.

Influenza related deaths among children are on the rise according to government data. This makes the vaccine vital, says the government. A recent study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine suggests otherwise. They say that the flu shot in children doesn’t necessarily protect them from illness.

The results of this study concluded that flu shots seemed not to make much difference. They found that children who got immunized did not get the flu at lower rates than unvaccinated children. The immunized children were as likely to be hospitalized or to see the doctor as children who never got the vaccine.

Don’t skip the vaccine just yet. The study looked at the effectiveness of a vaccine during two seasons in which the flu strain included in the vaccine was not well matched to the circulating strain that people were getting sick from. It is possible that the shot may have been protecting against the wrong flu stains. Researchers make their best prediction as to which flu virus will be affecting people in an upcoming season. Targeting the correct strain is a always somewhat of a guessing game, researchers often have to make these predictions several months ahead of time in order to keep up with the extensive vaccine manufacturing process.

The bottom line? On a population level, odds are that it is better to get a flu shot than not. There is no guarantee that it will work due to the different strands that surround us, but you have a better chance of not catching the flu if you have had a vaccine than if you haven’t.

By Eliza Stoll for Briggs & Wholey
Copyright 2008 Briggs & Wholey