Doctors urge vaccinating kids by Halloween after last year’s deadly flu season

CHICAGO -- Last flu season was the deadliest in 40 years, with 900,000 hospitalized and 80,000 killed, according to the CDC. Eighty-five percent of children who died from the flu then had not received a flu shot.

Hoping to improve outcomes for patients this year, physicians from four Chicago-area hospitals came together Sunday to urge parents to vaccinate all children over six months old before the end of October. Pregnant women should also be sure to get the vaccine, doctors say, since research shows the baby they're carrying will also benefit after birth.

"This year's flu shot might be more important than ever before," said Dr. Frank Belmonte, Advocate Children's Hospital.

After the worst flu season in decades last year, Dr. John Cunningham of Comer Children's Hospital went so far to call it a "significant and national emergency."

A recent national survey by Orlando Health shows half of parents believe their child would get the flu from the vaccine, while a third believed the shot doesn't protect from the flu. A third also believe the vaccine to be a conspiracy, an especially disturbing result for medical professionals.

"There are a lot of different opinions on a lot of different things, and a lot of time opinions aren't supported by facts; and when you look at the facts, they become pretty clear," said Dr. Michael Caplan, NorthShore University HealthSystem.

Doctors say the vaccine reduces the risk of hospitalization from the flu, and significantly reduces the risk of being admitted to an intensive care unit or even dying from the disease.