Pediatric flu deaths spark concerns over flu shot effectiveness

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN ) – The state’s first pediatric death from the flu has re-ignited concerns over just how effective this season’s flu vaccine really is.

Four-year-old Jonah Rieben is died at Dayton Children’s Hospital, Saturday; And over in Lucas County, a one-year-old child died from the flu.

Infectious Disease Physician at Dayton Children’s Hospital, Dr Jon Woltmann is encouraging people to get the flu shot to protect themselves, even though it may not be as effective as officials had hoped.

“Unfortunately the match for the flu vaccine was less than what we had predicted it would be but fortunately despite that, it’s still does provide some general degree of protection for anybody who has been vaccinated – decreasing the severity of the illness,” Woltman said.

“It still does provide some protection for you and your children.”

Speaking of young Jonah, he added: “We do here in the hospital recognize influenza is a very serious illness and it’s not surprising to hear that a 4 year old has passed away.”

Dan Suffoletto of Dayton and Montgomery County Public Health says this flu season has been one of the worst ones in years – with flu cases in Ohio at an all-time high.

“So far this season, a lot more cases than last year – so we need people to protect themselves by number one getting a flu shot,” Suffoletto said. “We want to make sure everyone realizes the flu is very serious and can lead to death that’s why taking precautions is necessary.”

Both Suffoletto and Woltman agree the flu shot is still a good idea, despite questions about its effectiveness.

“One of reasons we encourage vaccination among everyone that is healthy and well is because we know that if we prevent other people from getting sick, they can’t pass it on to other people that can’t get the vaccine, themselves,” Woltman said.

Suffoletto explained people should get the flu shot “to not only protect themselves but those who may not get the shot”.

The Ohio Health Department elevated flu activity to “widespread” – the highest level – in December.

Around the state, many hospitals are reporting an uptick in patients with the flu.

In the first week of January, alone, there were more than one thousand seven hundred new flu hospitalizations across the state.

Officials say it’s not too late to get the flu vaccine, if you haven’t already – and there’s plenty of supplies to go around.

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