Linda Ohri, a pharmacy professor at Creighton University, says kids in grade school, especially kindergartners and young children, are still developing their resistance to the flu virus and that makes them more susceptible to catching it.
“They’re around all of these other kids in the classroom and the teachers and their parents and their grandparents who may have an illness, their little brothers and sisters who are young infants,” Ohri says. “That’s why we call them a vector or spreader.”
While young kids may be responsible for spreading the flu to their families and far beyond, another age group may even be more hazardous. “Teenagers have a bit more resistance but teenagers are everywhere,” Ohri says. “They are really circulating in the population. They have jobs. They work in the grocery store or the pharmacy. They tend to have a lot more areas they’re exposing, being exposed to and exposing others to illness.”
While virtually everyone should get a flu shot, she says it’s very important children and teenagers get vaccinated to help prevent the spread of the virus and to inoculate themselves.
“They can get sick and they can die,” Ohri says. “We know lots of school-aged kids have illnesses like asthma, diabetes, other conditions that put them at very high risk for more severe illness.” She says the rates of hospitalization for children between two and five years of age are as high or higher than for people over 65. It’s recommended that everyone over the age of six months get a flu shot. The vaccine takes two weeks to be fully effective.