Newly-released data shows Alberta is falling short of its flu shot target for children under two years old.

The province says only 29 per cent of children between six and 23 months were immunized for flu in the last year. The target is 75 per cent of children in that age range.

Health officials are considering adding the flu vaccine to the list of immunizations provided in schools, since new research shows school-aged children are the most likely to spread the flu to vulnerable groups like infants and the elderly.


The Elain family turned down the flu shot when they took their twin babies for immunizations. (CBC)

Last fall, Alberta introduced a nasal mist version of the seasonal flu vaccine for children and teens.

"With a vaccine that is also given intranasally, it could be a bit easier to do this in a different setting because there's no needle involved," said Dr. Martin Lavoie, deputy chief medical officer of health for the province.

Dr. Glen Armstrong, head of the microbiology department at the University of Calgary, supports that idea.

"If you could immunize the majority of your school age children — and we have a really good vaccine that could do that now —then you don't have to hit that 75 per cent level in lower and upper age groups," he said.

Few parents pick flu shot for babies

Alberta has only been offering the flu shot to children between six months and two for the past five years. The nasal spray isn't offered to children that age.

Parent Mike Elain said he turned down the flu shot when he took his twin babies to get their other vaccinations because he hadn't done enough research.

"It's gut wrenching because I want the best for them and I was debating it until the last second," he said.

Parents may not realize that it's available and be reluctant because they've heard misleading information about the effectiveness of the flu shot, said Armstrong.

"The influenza vaccine is very safe in infants. There should be no concerns there and it's effective," he said. 

"It will certainly prevent young children in that age range from getting the flu and possibly developing serious complications as a result of getting the flu."

Armstrong said it would be worthwhile to do more research to find out how parents make up their minds about flu shots, which he said could help the province target information campaigns to increase the immunization rate.