The Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) announced Friday on the first pediatric flu death of the season.
Hawai’i’s last pediatric death from influenza occurred in January 2020. In the prior 10 years, Hawai’i has recorded 6 pediatric deaths due to influenza.
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the number of flu deaths in children has topped 100 (106), the highest number of flu deaths in children since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of these children were not vaccinated.
Among the 106 reported pediatric flu deaths this season:
- 41 occurred in children younger than 5 years old, who are at higher risk of developing serious flu complications based on their age.
- 3 occurred in children younger than 6 months, who are at highest risk among children of being hospitalized but who are too young to get a flu vaccine
- The remaining 65 deaths occurred in children 5 years to 17 years old.
- Of the 97 pediatric deaths that were among children with known information on medical conditions, 40 had a pre-existing medical condition that would place them at increased risk of developing serious flu complications. So nearly half of these deaths were in otherwise healthy children.
- 103 children were eligible for vaccination, and vaccination status was known for 81 of those children; 90% of those children were not fully vaccinated against flu. In past seasons, about 80% of children who died from flu have not been fully vaccinated.
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Most of the reported deaths (103) were associated with influenza A virus infections, and of the 59 influenza A viruses that were subtyped, 83% were A(H3N2) viruses.
Based on survey data, annual flu vaccination coverage among children this season is 51.8% compared to 50.3%. This is 6.5 percentage points lower than in January 2020, before the pandemic (51.8% compared with 58.3%).
Flu vaccination is especially important children who are younger than 5 years of age or children of any age who have certain medical conditions, because they are more likely to develop serious flu complications that can lead to hospitalization and death. Getting vaccinated has been shown to reduce flu illnesses, doctor’s visits, missed school days, and reduce the risk of flu-related hospitalization and death in children. Even if vaccinated children get sick, vaccination has been shown to make illness less severe.
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