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Why Parents Don't Get Their Children Vaccinated For The Flu


And of course, it is that time of year. The flu is coming.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Good morning, valued customers. Your pharmacist Tim is ready to see you now to administer your flu shot.

MONTAGNE: Flu vaccines are highly effective. But not everyone gets them. And when it comes to children, that is a problem because, as NPR's Patti Neighmond reports, children can spread the flu like no one else.

PATTI NEIGHMOND, BYLINE: Kids play in close and often chaotic quarters. They hug. They spit. They dribble - an environment ripe for the flu.

WILLIAM SCHAFFNER: The vaccine's not perfect, but it really is pretty darn good.

NEIGHMOND: Infectious disease specialist Dr. William Schaffner with Vanderbilt Medical Center advises federal health officials. He says we're doing a pretty good job getting our children vaccinated. Even so, about a third aren't. One recent study found parents gave lots of reasons why. Topping the list, they don't think it's needed. Schaffner says nothing could be further from the truth.

SCHAFFNER: Influenza is a potentially very serious infection and can take even a normal, healthy child and put them in the emergency room and, indeed, the intensive care unit, within 48 hours.

NEIGHMOND: The vast majority of children who die from the flu, he says, are not vaccinated. Another reason parents don't vaccinate, they're afraid the vaccine will give their kids the flu.

SCHAFFNER: It's folklore.

NEIGHMOND: You cannot get the flu from the vaccine.

SCHAFFNER: The vaccine itself is made up of parts of the virus and then put together in such a way that it stimulates our immune response. But the virus can't reconstitute itself in the body and make us sick.

NEIGHMOND: Lots of respiratory viruses and colds come along in the fall that parents might mistakenly associate with the flu vaccine. And for parents who say they just didn't get around to it, Schaffner says that's a mistake. Children deserve the protection, he says, and so does everyone else who comes in close contact with them. Patti Neighmond, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Award-winning journalist Patti Neighmond is NPR's health policy correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.