ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - Flu vaccination rates for Minnesota children increased slightly in the 2017-18 flu season compared to the previous year, according to data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But Minnesota health officials say too many children still remain unvaccinated and vulnerable to serious illness and even death.
“Since children can’t make the decision to get vaccinated themselves, it’s up to parents and health care providers to make it happen,” MDH Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann said. “Parents should ask their health care provider about influenza vaccine and providers should check the vaccination status of patients at every visit and strongly recommend vaccination.”
According to CDC estimates from the National Immunization Survey (NIS), approximately 62 percent of Minnesota children between the ages of 6 months and 17 years received vaccinations during the 2017-18 influenza season, up slightly from estimates of 60 percent for the previous two years. Minnesota is still above the overall national rate of coverage of 57.9 percent, which is a decrease of 1.1 points from the previous season.
The CDC data for Minnesota shows a drop-off in vaccination rates as children get older. The rate for children 6 months through 4 years (75 percent) is significantly higher than the rate for children 5 through 12 years (65 percent). There’s an even steeper drop-off in vaccination coverage for teenagers 13-17 years (50 percent).
The Minnesota Department of Health says this data suggests flu vaccination may be related to “convenience” or the difficulty to get school-age children in to the doctor during the school year.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children ages 6 months and older get a flu shot each year, ideally by the end of October.
Five children died from influenza or flu-related complications during last year’s flu season, and more than 6,400 Minnesotans of all ages were hospitalized for influenza. According to the CDC, 74 percent of the 172 pediatric flu deaths nationwide in 2017-18 involved unvaccinated children.