Do flu vaccines work for toddlers?



The flu vaccine was similar to the placebo in children under 2 years of age.

  • Typically, about 40 to 50 children usually die during an entire flu season.
  • The flu vaccine carries a risk of febrile convulsions among other side effects, and many brands still contain the mercury preservative thimerosal.
  • Given the low efficacy of the flu vaccine in children under 2, the low number of flu deaths for this age group, and the risks associated with the vaccine (especially the mercury-containing vaccines) it doesn’t make sense to give this age group the flu vaccine.
  • Even in children over 2 years old, both the vaccinated and unvaccinated groups had similar rates of influenza-like illnesses.  The apparent lack of effectiveness by influenza vaccines led The Atlantic magazine to question in November 2009 as to whether the influenza vaccine makes any difference (see “Does the Vaccine Matter?“)
  • Given all the information above, it appears that other flu treatment and prevention options need to be considered. Vitamin D3 supplementation may be one option as it was shown to reduce the risk of catching influenza A by 58%.


More Details:

1.  According to the Cochrane study involving 263,987 children, the flu vaccine was similar to placebo for children under 2:

  • “live vaccines showed an efficacy of 79% (95% confidence interval (CI) 48% to 92%) and an effectiveness of 33% (95% CI 28% to 38%) in children older than two years compared with placebo or no intervention. Inactivated vaccines had a lower efficacy of 59% (95% CI 41% to 71%) than live vaccines but similar effectiveness: 36% (95% CI 24% to 46%). In children under two, the efficacy of inactivated vaccine was similar to placebo.”


2. Typically, “about 40 or 50 children usually die during an entire flu season.” in the US. (HERE) However, H1N1 is more severe for this age group.  There were 276 laboratory confirmed influenza-associated pediatric deaths in the 2009-10 season (49 of these deaths were in children under 2).  225 of the pediatric flu deaths were due to H1N1 and the remaining 51 were due to other flu strains (HERE).  The 2010-2011 flu vaccine included H1N1, but based on previous studies, there is currently no reason to believe it will have a higher efficacy rate than the placebo in children under 2.


3. The flu vaccine, like most medical interventions, carries a risk of side effects:

  • Australia suspended the seasonal flu vaccine for all children under 5 because it was causing febrile seizures.
  • “Australia’s ABC News reported April 23, 2010 that seasonal flu vaccines for young children had been deemed too dangerous with reactions greatly under-reported, and Australian doctors have now been warned not to give the seasonal flu vaccine to children under the age of five, after a child fell critically ill and dozens more suffered serious adverse reactions after receiving the vaccine in Western Australia, with The Australian Medical Association backing this move to suspend vaccinations in children under five around the entire country.”
  • The FDA and CDC have also detected an increase in febrile seizures following the flu vaccine.
  • “FDA and CDC have recently detected an increase in the number of reports to VAERS of febrile seizures following vaccination with Fluzone (trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine or TIV, manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur, Inc.). Fluzone is the only influenza vaccine recommended for use for the 2010-2011 flu season in infants and children 6-23 months of age. These reported febrile seizures have primarily been seen in children younger than 2 years of age.”
  • There are reports of teenage children in Sweden and Finland developing narcolepsy following the Pandemrix H1N1 vaccine, and “somnolence” (a state of near-sleep) is listed as a potential side effect for Pandemrix.
  • And unfortunately, the only flu vaccines licensed for children under 2 years of age still contain thimerosal, a mercury preservative. Reduced thimerosal formulations can be requested, but there are numerous studies that show thimerosal is dangerous; especially for infants and children. (see SafeMinds Flu Facts).


4.  The influenza vaccine appears to have more risk vs benefit for children under 2. The vaccine doesn’t appear effective for children under 2 (as discussed above), and even if it is mildly effective the risk of death from influenza in children is very low (see Disease Risk – Influenza).



5.  The influenza vaccine may not work in children older than 2:

  • FluMist is a thimerosal-free choice for persons 2 through 49 years of age, and since it is a live virus vaccine it has a higher average efficacy rate of 79% as compared to the inactivated vaccine which only has an average efficacy rate of 59%. However, more research is needed to know how effective flu vaccines are for children between the ages of 2 and 5 since the flu vaccine has a higher success rate in older groups:  ”The vaccine protects between 45% and 90% of healthy children from getting influenza. Studies indicate that the older and healthier children who have received the influenza vaccine are, the more likely they will be protected.”
  • The Cochrane study defines efficacy as “prevention of confirmed influenza” and effectiveness as “prevention of influenza-like illness”.    Their study found that in children older than 2 the flu vaccine carries a 59 to 79% rate of efficacy (preventing influenza attributable illness), but it only provides an 33 to 36% rate of effectiveness (at reducing flu-like symptoms). In other words, it can prevent specific flu strains, but people still get sick with flu-like symptoms even if they get the flu vaccine.
  • Their findings match a study cited in the Pediatrics journal, which also found the vaccine to be about 80% effective at preventing the flu (see table 3), but when they compared the incidence of flu like illnesses (sore throat, chills, runny nose, etc) in vaccinated vs unvaccinated groups, there wasn’t much difference and the unvaccinated group actually had slightly fewer incidents (see table 7).
  • The apparent lack of effectiveness by influenza vaccines led The Atlantic magazine to question in November 2009 as to whether the influenza vaccine makes any difference (see “Does the Vaccine Matter?“)



6.  Given all the information above, other flu treatment and prevention methods need to be explored. A good place to start might be vitamin D3 supplementation: