More than 100 Flu-Related Deaths in Children Reported So Far This Season

March 8, 2024 — CDC reported 10 new flu-related pediatric deaths this week, bringing the total for the season to 103. Nearly 90% these children were not vaccinated against flu. This tragic milestone underscores the importance of vaccinating children against flu.

Flu activity remains elevated nationally and continues to increase in some parts of the country. CDC recommends getting vaccinated as long as flu viruses are circulating. Because flu activity can continue into spring, there may still be a benefit to vaccinating your child this season.

During the most recent 10 flu seasons, the number of reported pediatric flu deaths has ranged from one (2020-2021) to 199 (2019-2020). Prior to the pandemic, the record low for pediatric deaths was 37, which was during the 2011-2012 season.

Among the 103 reported pediatric flu deaths this season:

  • 38 occurred in children younger than 5 years old. These children are at higher risk of developing serious flu complications based on their age.
    • 5 occurred in children younger than 6 months, who are at highest risk among children of being hospitalized with flu but are too young to get a flu vaccine.
  • 65 deaths occurred in children 5 years to 17 years old.
  • Of the 98 pediatric deaths that were among children with known information on medical conditions, 46 had a pre-existing medical condition that would place them at higher risk of developing serious flu complications.
    • This means more than half of pediatric flu deaths this season were in otherwise healthy children.
  • 98 children were eligible for vaccination, and vaccination status was known for 89 of those children; 88% of those children were not fully vaccinated against flu. In past seasons, about 80% of children who died from flu were not fully vaccinated.

About half of the reported deaths (55) were associated with influenza A virus infection, and of the 31 influenza A specimens that were subtyped, 26 were influenza A(H1N1) and 5 were influenza A(H3N2) virus. Influenza B viruses were associated with 47 pediatric deaths this season. One death was associated with an influenza A(H1N1) virus and influenza B virus coinfection.

Interim flu vaccine effectiveness estimates from CDC show that vaccination this season reduced the risk of flu medical visits by about two-thirds and flu-related hospitalization by about half for vaccinated children. Against the predominant influenza A(H1N1) virus, vaccination reduced the risk of flu-related hospitalizations in children by 60%. Flu vaccine effectiveness against influenza B viruses was even higher, reducing a child’s risk of going to the doctor with flu by 64% – 89%.

Flu vaccination uptake in children is more than 9 percentage points lower compared to coverage prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and about 3 percentage points lower compared to last season. This is concerning considering the majority of flu-related deaths in children each season occur in children who have not been fully vaccinated.

Flu season severity indicators related to outpatient medical visits, hospitalizations, and deaths this season suggest this is a moderately severe flu season for children when comparing these same indicators to past seasons.

Flu vaccination is especially important for children who are younger than 5 years of age or children of any age who have certain medical conditions because they are at increased risk of developing serious flu complications that can lead to hospitalization and death. Getting vaccinated has been shown to reduce flu illnesses, doctor’s visits, missed school days, and the risk of flu-related hospitalization and death in children. Even if vaccinated children get sick, vaccination has been shown to make illness less severe.