The Vaccine working group of the Spanish Society of Outpatient Pediatrics and Primary Care (SEPEAP) has called for the adoption of universal vaccination against influenza in childrensince it is a disease “underestimated, underdiagnosed, underprevented and even undertreated in those specific situations in which it requires specific antiviral treatment.”
Along these same lines, the Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEP) pronounces itself, which, through its Vaccine Advisory Committee, recommends, from the year 2021, universal vaccination against the influenza virus in children under 6 and 59 months.
Some autonomous communities are already considering this possibility and pediatricians consider that “The time has come to make effective decisions to deal with a pathology that is highly undervalued in society as a whole”.
“This is explained both by lack of confirmation diagnosis, which causes the real burden of the disease to go unnoticed, as well as the general perception that it is a benign disease of little importance. This perception generates clearly insufficient vaccination rates in those groups in which the vaccine is especially indicated, including health professionals, with very low coverage, ”point out the SEPEAP experts.
Although coverage is acceptable for people over 65 years of age, it “clearly declines” in other risk groups, especially minors. In fact, the inoculation of children belonging to risk groups only reaches 15-20% of those who really need the vaccine.
We must consider children themselves as a risk group linked to their age
“It is evident that the strategy must be changed,” the SEPEAP experts insist, especially in the face of the evidence that theThe flu is a “clearly pediatric” disease with incidence rates “much higher than adult ages”.
The onset of the influenza epidemic begins in children, the main vectors of the disease, and extends later to the ages most prone to complications, hospitalization and lethality. In addition, they present hospitalization rates comparable to those over 65 years of age, especially in the group of children under 4 years of age.
“The conceptual change that we pediatricians and pediatric nurses must make is that we must consider the children themselves as risk group linked to their agejust as it is done with older people », they defend from the working group.
The figures indicate that more than 60% of children who end up hospitalized for complications from the flu do not have any previously known risk factors. This reality means that the minors affected would be without protection, even reaching 100% vaccination coverage of the risk groups currently considered.
That is why pediatricians consider that these minors should be considered as a direct and indirect risk group, since suffer from serious forms of disease that condition hospitalization and transmit the virus to other groups that can suffer serious forms, even with lethality.
On the other hand, from SEPEAP they argue that the effectiveness of the flu vaccine in children “is proven, although it depends on the concordance between the vaccine viruses and those actually circulating.”
The data shows the enormous population benefit of this strategy in those territories in which it has been established
However, more than the variable and moderate effectiveness, they consider it necessary to assess the “enormous impact on the population that vaccination entails in such a prevalent disease, which can affect up to 50% of children in certain seasonal epidemics.
“The data shows the enormous population benefit of this strategy in those territories in which it has been established, which can only be limited by a low availability of vaccines,” the experts emphasize.