Too Few Kids With Epilepsy, Cerebral Palsy Get Flu Shot: Study

FRIDAY, April 10, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Children with neurological disorders such as epilepsy or cerebral palsy are at increased risk for complications from the flu, but are no more likely to receive a flu shot than other kids are, a new U.S. study shows.

It's possible that many doctors don't know that some of these disorders put children at increased risk for flu-related complications, the researchers said.

"Our research shows that influenza vaccination in children with [neurological disorders] is comparable to vaccination in healthy children -- but both rates are suboptimal," study author Dr. Michael Smith, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Louisville, said in a university news release.

"More education about the need for annual influenza vaccination is needed, both for parents and health care providers," he added.

The researchers conducted a nationwide survey of more than 2,000 parents of children with at least one high-risk condition of any kind. This included more than 1,100 parents of children with at least one neurological disorder and 516 parents of children with more than one neurological disorder.

Overall, 47 percent of the parents said their children had received or were scheduled to receive seasonal flu vaccine. The rate was only slightly higher -- 50 percent -- among parents of children with neurological disorders.

Thirty-eight percent of the parents who did not have their children vaccinated against flu said they had concerns about how the vaccine would affect their child. One-third said they had concerns about the safety of the vaccine.

The study, published online April 9 in the journal Vaccine, was conducted with researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers also surveyed 412 doctors and found that three-quarters were aware that children with cerebral palsy were at increased risk for flu complications, but the awareness of increased risk was lower for epilepsy (51 percent) and intellectual disability (46 percent).

One-third of reported flu-related deaths among children in the United States between 2004 and 2012 occurred in children with neurological disorders, according to a 2013 study in the journal Pediatrics.

"The reasons for the increased severity of influenza among these children are uncertain," Smith said.

More needs to be learned about the attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that influence flu vaccination of children with neurological disorders, he added.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about children and flu vaccination.

SOURCE: University of Louisville, news release, April 9, 2015

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