Jennie Rohrer, a registered nurse at the Clark County Combined Health District, gives Willow Brooks, 3, a flu shot as her mother, Tammy, holds her Wednesday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Dayton Children’s takes action in response to ‘disturbingly low’ child flu shot rates

Fewer than 30 percent of patients at Dayton Children’s Hospital last year had a flu shot.

The vaccination rate is a “disturbingly low percentage,” said Dr. Sherman Alter, chief of the hospital’s division of infectious disease.

“The flu is a very serious and even deadly illness, especially for children with chronic illnesses, such as asthma,” he said. “Getting the flu vaccine is one of the easiest ways to protect children and families from further illness so we couldn’t get information like that and not do something about it.”

The flu can mean illness or even death and young children are among populations who are particularly vulnerable to complications. Last year, a 4-year-old boy treated at Dayton Children’s died from the flu.

The Dayton Daily News also reported earlier this year the story of an Air Force psychiatrist at the Wright-Patterson Medical Center and her husband who shared the story of losing their 4-year-old son last year to flu complications at another U.S. military base. His death was a few weeks before his scheduled vaccination, and the family this year shared their story to warn other families that even healthy children can be at risk of flu-related death.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimated more than 600 children died from the flu last season, which is more than three times the officially reported number of children who died the previous year. The CDC said about 80 percent of children who die each season from flu-related complications did not have a recent flu shot.

The vaccination program at Dayton Children’s will be similar to going to a pharmacy in any retail outlet for a vaccine. The hospital will bill a family’s insurance company and send documentation to the primary care physician for inclusion in a child’s medical records.

Dayton Children’s said Ohio law restricts pharmacists to giving flu shots to children older than 7.

This program grew out of a pilot study last year in which the hospital surveyed every patient’s family to see whether their child received the flu vaccine. Fewer than 30 percent of children who came to Dayton Children’s for any reason were vaccinated against the flu.

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Families of Dayton Children’s patients will be informed about the new offering when they register in the ER, for an outpatient visit or for an inpatient stay. They can visit the pharmacy any time it is open to receive the flu vaccination.

The main campus pharmacy is open 24 hours and the south campus in Springboro is open 6 a.m. to midnight on weekdays and noon to 10 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County also is providing flu vaccinations at its clinic in downtown Dayton at 117 S. Main St. For more information or to make an appointment call the immunization clinic at 937-225-4550.

Dan Suffoletto, spokesman for Public Health, said good hand washing and covering your mouth are important preventative measures, but younger children might not have picked those habits up yet. Children also often come in close contact with lots of other children through school and child care, which can lead to flu spreading among the group.

Following the high number of flu cases last year, Suffoletto said another important preventive measure is staying home from work or school if sick to stop the spread of the virus.

Suffoletto emphasized that it is not too late for children to receive a flu shot to reduce their risk.

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