PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A new study conducted by Oregon Health and Science University researchers shows that children are twice as likely to be fully vaccinated by the age of 2 if at least one of their parents has received a flu vaccine. Children with two parents who have received flu shots are reportedly even more likely to be fully vaccinated.

OHSU’s findings were published in the peer-reviewed medical journal “Vaccine” and suggest that an effective way to increase vaccinations among children may be to increase the prevalence of flu shots among parents.

The information comes as public health officials urge people to get vaccinated ahead of a “severe” 2022-2023 flu season, which the CDC reports is causing the highest rate of hospitalizations since the 2010-2011 flu season. Children and older adults are reportedly at the greatest risk of hospitalization due to this year’s flu virus. 

Flu hospitalizations rates are abnormally high for this time of year. | CDC

Vaccination rates for children in the U.S. are high, with more than 90% of U.S. children receiving their scheduled immunizations. However, data shows that children living in poverty and children with Medicaid coverage or no medical insurance are less likely to be vaccinated than those not living in poverty and those with private insurance.

This research, OHSU School of Medicine Assistant Professor Heather Angier said, gives experts a better understanding of childhood vaccination rates.

“We know that there are certain factors that hinder children from receiving routine vaccinations, which puts them at risk of serious illness or even death from diseases, many of which are entirely preventable,” Angier said. “This research is important because having a deeper understanding of factors that affect this issue, including parents’ beliefs about vaccines and their vaccination status, is key to increasing vaccination rates among children.”

The spread of the flu virus dropped significantly in the last two years as a result of precautions taken to slow the spread of COVID-19. However, fewer flu-related illnesses, OHSU warns, means that people’s immune systems may be weaker and less equipped to fight off viral infections this year. Flu and COVID-19 vaccines are widely available for children and adults at pharmacies and healthcare offices across Oregon.

“Child and adult immune systems lack practice in fighting off these viruses,” OHSU said. “So getting vaccinated is especially important this year.”