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Kids with epilepsy or intellectual disabilities need flu shots

Children with cerebral palsy or epilepsy, or with neurologic or developmental disorders, are often beneficiaries of Supplemental Security Income, and many of them are eligible for Medicaid. Yet, while Georgia Medicaid fully covers flu shots for both children and adults at increased risk, far too few children with these conditions are getting vaccinated.

This is a serious problem. Children and young adults with neurological or intellectual disabilities, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and some other conditions, are among the most vulnerable for serious and even life-threatening complications from flu. This is because children with these conditions often have more trouble coughing, swallowing and clearing fluid out of their airways.

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the results of a survey that found that only half of kids with these disabilities get flu shots each year --  about the same as for all kids despite the increased risk for kids with special needs.

According to the CDC, a disproportionate number of children with neurologic and developmental disabilities died during the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak. Among the children who died that year from H1N1, the most common conditions affecting them were intellectual disabilities and epilepsy.

When the CDC surveyed doctors who commonly treat children with special needs about which conditions are riskiest, however, they were least likely to identify intellectual disabilities and epilepsy. Yet parents typically rely on their doctors to tell them if their children are at high risk for flu complications and to recommend flu shots if they are.

If you have children under five, or if they have any of these conditions, get them and their siblings flu shots every year:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Epilepsy and other seizure disorders
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Moderate to severe developmental delay
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Disorders of the brain and spinal cord
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Stroke

“It’s very important that we vaccinate these children and those around them,” says the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC.

If your children live in Georgia and are on Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance and covered by Medicaid or private health insurance, flu shots are easily available and free.


  • Disability Scoop, “CDC: Half Of Kids With Disabilities Skip Flu Shots,” Michelle Diament, Sept. 13, 2013
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Key Findings: Influenza Vaccination Practices of Physicians and Caregivers of Children with Neurologic and Neurodevelopmental Conditions - United States, 2011 - 12 Influenza Season,” Sept. 12, 2013

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