Influenza vaccine encouraged for infants 6 to 23 months

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – The vaccine advisory committee of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now encouraging parents to have children between the ages of 6 and 23 months old vaccinated for influenza next fall, at the start of the 2002/2003 flu season.

Children in this age group are at "substantially increased risk for influenza-related hospitalizations," according to a statement from the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

The group is expected to make a full recommendation sometime within the next 3 years that these children receive the influenza vaccine annually, the statement notes.

As part of the new recommendations, the panel also voted that those most at risk of developing influenza complications receive their shots first, preferably by October, while those at lower risk should wait until November. The "most at risk" group includes healthcare workers, as well as high-risk children who receive the shot for the first time, because they need a booster dose 1 month later. Household members of at-risk people and healthy people between the ages of 50 to 64 years should have their shots in November, the CDC advises.

Even those who are vaccinated after November are likely to be protected against influenza, according to the panel, which points out that influenza activity often peaks between December and March. In general, adults develop antibody protection about 2 weeks after receiving the vaccine.

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