According to Schaffner, "Children between 6 months to 2 years -- if they get influenza -- have rates of complications that are similar to those in people age 65 or over." These complications can include middle ear infections, pneumonia and even death.
Children who are 2 to 5 years old visit the doctor frequently for flu-related illness, are subjected to unnecessary tests, and are often given antibiotics they don't need. Typical antibiotics are not effective against the flu.
Belshe said, "Children get the flu twice as often as adults do, and they are also the main spreaders of flu. Thus, vaccinating children has a secondary benefit, to family members and especially the elderly, who can have serious consequences and death from influenza."
The nasal vaccine, which is marketed under the name FluMist, is currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use only in people between 5 and 49 years old. The manufacturer has already submitted application data to the FDA, and approval for the use of FluMist in children under 5 years of age will hopefully occur in time for the next flu season.
Schaffner predicts that the vaccine will soon be licensed for young children, but that doctors may be cautioned about using it.
As a note to parents, he said, "Your doctor will tell you which vaccine will be best for your child."