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Get flu shots for kids with neurologic or intellectual conditions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just issued an urgent call for children with neurologic or intellectual conditions to get seasonal flu shots every year. Many of these kids are beneficiaries of Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance, and a large proportion of them are eligible for Medicaid. In Wisconsin, you may have heard that BadgerCare Plus requires a $10 copayment for flu shots, but the shots are free for Medicaid recipients. They are also fully covered by most private insurance.

The reason for urgency by the CDC is that children with certain physical and mental conditions are at high risk for life-threatening complications from the flu. While this his long been known, according to a recent survey, even doctors who routinely treat kids with special needs don’t always realize which conditions put children at the highest risk if they get the flu.

In fact, CDC shows that, in the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak, a disproportionate number of children with neurological conditions died from flu complications. The two conditions that put kids most at risk for death during that outbreak were epilepsy and intellectual disabilities.

Yet when the CDC surveyed the doctors, intellectual disabilities and epilepsy were two of the least likely to be identified as especially risky.

The CDC recommends that all children under the age of five get annual flu shots. The heightened risk group includes children and young adults with any of the following conditions:

  • Intellectual disabilities, including moderate-to-severe developmental disorders such as Down syndrome 
  • Epilepsy and other seizure disorders
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Disorders of the brain and spinal cord, or spinal cord injury
  • Stroke

In addition, flu shots are critical for anyone who may have trouble coughing, swallowing, or clearing fluid from their airways, along with those with weak or compromised immune systems.

“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.

Today, only half of all children with intellectual and neurological conditions get annual flu shots. If you live in Wisconsin and have kids on Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, you almost certainly qualify for free flu shots for all of your kids -- and all of your kids should get one every year.


  • 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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