From 1976 to 2007, public health officials estimated that influenza infections accounted for about 100 deaths annually among children and adolescents. Since 2004, when influenza deaths among children became a reportable disease, the numbers of deaths have ranged from 37 in the 2011-2012 season to 358 during the 2009 influenza pandemic.
In 2010, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that all children older than 6 months of age receive an annual influenza vaccine. Nonetheless, to date no study has examined the effectiveness of influenza vaccine against laboratory confirmed influenza deaths in children.
In the April 2017 issue of Pediatrics, Brenan Flannery and coworkers at the CDC examined the effectiveness of influenza vaccine on prevention of influenza mortality (Flannery B, Reynolds SB, Blanton L, et. al. Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Against Pediatric Deaths. Pediatrics. 2017. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2016-4244).
From July 2010 through June 2014, 358 laboratory-confirmed influenza deaths in children between 6 months and 17 years of age were reported. Vaccination status was available for 291 of those deaths (26 percent vaccination rate). Flannery and coworkers found that the overall vaccine efficacy of influenza vaccine against death was 65 percent, and was 51 percent for those with high-risk conditions (like chronic lung or heart disease). The authors concluded, “The results of this study suggest that vaccination reduced the risk of influenza-associated deaths among children and adolescents and add to the evidence of benefits of influenza vaccination for children.”