(HealthDay News) – Although the influenza vaccine is recommended for all children aged ≥6 months, <45% of young children are fully vaccinated and the health care burden of influenza is considerable, according to a study published online Jan. 6 in Pediatrics.

Katherine A. Poehling, MD, MPH, from the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC, and colleagues analyzed the health care burden for influenza for a population of children <5 years old. The children presented with fever and/or acute respiratory illness in inpatient and outpatient (emergency department or clinic) settings from 2004–2009, when influenza vaccination recommendations were expanded to all children ≥6 months of age. The population included 2,970 children from inpatient settings, 2,698 from emergency departments, and 2,920 from clinics.

The researchers found that the average annual hospitalization rates for influenza ranged from 0.4–1 per 1,000 children and were highest for infants <6 months old. The annual percentage of children with influenza seen as outpatients ranged from 10%–25%. Less than 45% of children ≥6 months were fully vaccinated against influenza. Among children hospitalized with influenza, 2% received antiviral drugs, while <1% of outpatient children with influenza received antiviral drugs.

“Despite expanded vaccination recommendations, many children are insufficiently vaccinated, and substantial influenza burden remains,” Poehling and colleagues conclude.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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