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Vaccinate kids for flu, Minnesota health officials plead

September 27, 2018

Flu killed and sent more people in the country to the hospital last winter than any other season in recent history, according to new data released Thursday.

And in Minnesota, more than 6,400 people were hospitalized and five children died from influenza or related complications last year.

Those stark numbers underscore how severe the flu can be and come with a warning from state public health officials who say that not enough children are being vaccinated.

Since children cant make the decision to get vaccinated themselves, its up to parents and health care providers to make it happen, Kris Ehresmann, the Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Disease Division Director, said in a prepared statement.

Last year, about 62 percent of Minnesota children between the ages of 6 months and 17 years received vaccinations last influenza season, which is an increase from previous years, according to a news release announcing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Minnesotas rate was slightly higher than the national overall vaccination rate, which was 57.9 percent.

But thats not enough.

Of the 172 children across the country who died last year, 74 percent were children who were not vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Protecting slightly more Minnesota children from influenza last year is good news ... but we still have too many children left unprotected from this potentially serious disease, Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said in the news release. The flu vaccine protects those who receive it as well as those in the community who cannot be vaccinated due to medical conditions.

Health officials recommends that all children 6 months and older get the vaccine each year before the end of October.

As children get older, they are less likely to receive the vaccine, according to survey data in Minnesota.

About 75 percent of children ages 6 months to 4 years are receiving the vaccine. From ages 5 to 12 years, only 65 percent are vaccinated. And only 50 percent of children ages 13 to 17.

That suggests influenza vaccination may be related to convenience or how often children of different ages visit their health care provider, according to the statement.

But there are more options to receive the vaccine from clinics to pharmacies, and local health agencies to workplaces, health officials stressed.

Karen Zamora 612-673-4647 Twitter: @KarenAnelZamora

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