BETHESDA, Md., Feb. 12 The recent influenzaoutbreaks across the country, resulting in at least one confirmed death of achild, is a stark reminder that the influenza virus is a serious disease andas widespread as ever.
The reality is that influenza hospitalizes more than 20,000 childrenyounger than 5 years of age each year in the United States -- and causesapproximately 100 deaths. These statistics are particularly tragic becausemany childhood influenza infections are preventable through annualimmunization; however, vaccination rates among children are dismally low.
"Annual influenza immunization is safe and protects our children fromdisease. Many children across our nation are vulnerable to influenza infectionevery year because they are not vaccinated," said Coalition Chair Richard H.Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., FACS, 17th Surgeon General of the United States (2002-2006), President of Canyon Ranch Institute and Distinguished Professor ofPublic Health, The University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College ofPublic Health.
The Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition is committed to increasingvaccination rates among children. Disturbed by low rates of only 20.6% amongchildren recommended for the influenza vaccine, the Coalition recently issueda report outlining strategies for parents and health care professionals tohelp improve immunization rates among this vulnerable population. Two keyfindings of the report are: offering influenza vaccinations at all medicalvisits, and making use of the full season -- vaccinating as soon as vaccinesare available and also using every opportunity to vaccinate throughout thewinter into February and March because the influenza vaccine continues to beof benefit while the virus circulates.
"We urgently need to make influenza prevention a national priority so thatparents will take a simple, yet important step to protect their child's healthand have their children vaccinated," said Carol J. Baker, M.D., President ofthe National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. "The Coalition initiativesprovide parents and health care professionals with important information toencourage the vaccination of children and their close contacts."
The Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition was established by theNational Foundation for Infectious Diseases to protect infants, children andadolescents from influenza by communicating with "one strong voice" the needto make influenza immunization a national health priority. The Coalitionseeks to address and improve the low influenza immunization rates amongchildren. Members represent 25 of the nation's leading public health, medical,patient and parent groups committed to protecting children's health andencouraging wellness. The Coalition is made possible through an unrestrictededucational grant to NFID from sanofi pasteur.
More information about influenza immunization, including the new ChildhoodInfluenza Immunization Coalition Report, is available atwww.PreventChildhoodInfluenza.org.
Contact: Jennifer CorriganWork: 732-382-8898 Cell: 732-742-7148
SOURCE Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition