As health officials urge the public to get the flu shot in order to avoid potentially overloading the country’s hospitals with both influenza and coronavirus-related illnesses, a new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that last year’s vaccine, which was estimated to be between 40% and 60% effective, actually reduced pediatric flu-related emergency room visits by as much as 51%, and hospitalizations by 40%.
The findings, which were shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, come despite the fact that last year’s flu vaccines “were not well matched with one of the circulating viruses,” according to the CDC.
The study involved 1,792 children ages 6 months to 17 years who were admitted to seven pediatric hospitals in the U.S. Of those patients, 226 were influenza positive. Of the 226, 47% tested positive for influenza A(H3N2), 36% were positive for influenza A(H1N1)pdm09, 9% for A(not subtyped), and 7% or B viruses. It also looked at 1944 emergency department visits for children the same age and found 420 were influenza-positive, with 48% positive for A(H3N2), 35% for A(H1N1)pdm09, 11% for A(not subtyped), and 5% for B viruses.
The researchers estimated vaccine effectiveness by comparing the odds of vaccination among children testing positive versus negative for the influenza virus. As a result, the researchers concluded that the 2018-2019 influenza vaccine effectiveness was “41% against influenza-related hospitalizations and 51% against influenza-related emergency department visits among children,” per the AAP study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics.
“Vaccination provided protection against both influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 and A(H3N2), despite circulation of antigenically drifted (H3N2) viruses,” the study said.
The AAP further stated that annual flu vaccination is the best protection against influenza and is recommended for all persons in the U.S. ages 6 months or older.
“Although the overall burden of influenza disease in children varies by season, influenza is estimated to be associated with 12,000 to 46,000 hospitalizations among children each season,” the AAP stated. “Influenza-related hospitalizations and emergency department visits reflect substantial moderate to severe childhood morbidity and economic burden caused by influenza in children.”
Influenza can cause mild to severe illness that could result in hospitalization or even death. Older people, young children and those with certain health conditions are considered to be at high risk of serious complications. Patients may experience fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, fatigue, and even vomiting or diarrhea.
Health experts caution that symptoms of influenza and coronavirus may mimic each other, but there are some differences that can help you tell the difference.
“Influenza tends to cause much more body pain and the COVID-19 virus tends to feel much more like the common cold with fever, cough, runny nose and diarrhea,” Dr. Caesar Djavaherian, co-founder of Carbon Health, previously told Fox News. “However, in a small portion of the population with either COVID-19 or influenza, symptoms progress to kidney failure and respiratory failure.”