This article appeared in The Hill. Read more here.
The number of pediatric flu deaths during the current season has officially gone over 100, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — more than twice the number of the pediatric deaths confirmed in the last flu season.
The CDC reported nine pediatric flu deaths this week, bringing the total for the season up to 106. The agency also noted that it is the highest pediatric death rate for flu since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Most of these children were not vaccinated. This tragic milestone underscores the importance of vaccinating children against flu,” the CDC said in a statement.
“Flu vaccination uptake in children is lower by about 6 percentage points than it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement added, noting that 103 of the children were eligible for vaccination.
Among the children who died, 40 had preexisting medical conditions.
The two flu seasons preceding the 2022-2023 season were markedly mild due to coronavirus mitigation methods, such as masking and quarantining, that also limited the spread of influenza. In the 2020-2021 flu season, only one pediatric death was recorded and only 45 were reported the following season.
Prior to the start of the pandemic, 199 pediatric flu deaths were reported during the 2019-2020 flu season.
The current flu season was marked by an earlier than usual onset, coupled with the spread of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) among young children who had not been previously exposed to the common virus due to isolation brought on by the pandemic.
Health officials were concerned that the U.S. could see a concurrent rise in RSV, flu and COVID-19 cases with the winter, but coronavirus cases remained relatively low peaking around late December.
The most recent flu report from the CDC found that seasonal flu activity is relatively low nationally, with only New Mexico and New York City considered to have “high” levels at this point.