A natural experiment suggests that flu shots may offer big benefits for little kids. Back in 2006, US authorities recommended vaccinating healthy children two to five years old against the flu. In Canada, a similar recommendation was not made until 2010. Scientists have compared the rate of emergency treatment for influenza like illness in two pediatric hospitals from 2000 to 2009. The major difference between Boston and Quebec at that time was the national policy on influenza vaccination.
Statistical analysis showed that hospitalization for flu-like illness among youngsters two to four years old dropped by 34 percent in Boston after 2006 but did not change in Quebec. The benefits for older children were more modest, between 11 and 18 percent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommend that everyone over six months old get a flu shot.
[Canadian Medical Association Journal, Sept. 20, 2011]