Why children with chronic illnesses should still get a flu shot

Parents of a 5-year-old Carpentersville girl who died last week from the flu said they opted out of getting their daughter vaccinated because they were concerned it would exacerbate her tendency to have seizures, which were brought on by fevers.

One of the possible side effects of the flu vaccine is a low-grade fever.

Mia Lobo's parents said their daughter's seizures were an acute condition, but medical experts said children with chronic conditions should get the flu vaccine annually. Research also indicates that the vaccination rate for such children is "alarmingly low" because many people "lack awareness of the risks of influenza and have insufficient understanding about the benefits of vaccination," according to a 2017 study published in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even suggests children with chronic conditions be prioritized for vaccination during shortages because they can have a higher risk of developing complications if they get the flu.

Flu was widespread in Illinois over the winter and began tapering off at the end of February, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. But cases are still around.

In the week ending April 14, 23 people in the state were admitted to hospital ICUs for flu, out of 2,199 for the winter flu season.

Eight children have died in Illinois during this flu season.

Pediatrician Renee Slade at Rush University Medical Center told ABC 7 children should still get the vaccination if they haven't already, even though it takes two weeks to be effective.

"Since we don't know when the flu is going to leave town, then as long as we're seeing it here, then we recommend getting it."

Mia attended preschool and wanted to be a doctor, her parents told ABC 7, saying they want her death to be a warning to other parents.

The vaccination used this year to combat the flu was less effective than past vaccines because the predominant influenza strain was immune to the vaccine, according to health officials. However, they say being vaccinated can reduce the severity of the illness for those who still get sick.

Children six months or older - barring any allergies to the ingredients of the vaccine - should get a flu shot every year, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Children are among those who are more susceptible to the flu's health complications, especially children with neurological conditions like seizure disorders.

"Because children with chronic health conditions are at a higher risk of getting flu related complications, it is especially important that they get a flu shot," a vaccination guide on the academy's website reads.

Health officials suggest younger children being vaccinated for the first time might need to get two doses of the vaccine, but suggest talking with the child's pediatrician before doing so.

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