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Cold and Flu

Mentally Retarded Influenza Risk



The CDC and other sources recommend influenza (and from some sources) pneumonia vaccine for certina at-risk populations: primarily older adults and people with "chronic illnesses." Would individuals with Mental Retardation (MR) be considered "at risk" and thus recommended for vaccination? Is there a different answer if the individuals were living in a facility or group living environment? Lastly, is there any organization which focuses on the health care needs of this population? (e.g. there are gerontologists and pediatricians but there does not appear to be amedical subspecialty for the health care needs of the MR population). Thanks!


The CDC recomendations do not cite people with mental retardation (MR) as a target group for pneumococccal vaccination or influenza vaccination. However, institutionalized persons are at high risk to acquire epidemic infectious diseases and to transmit infectious diseases and should be considered candidates for annual influenza vaccine.

Moreover, mental retardation is not a homogeneous diagnosis. People with multiple medical problems may share the diagnosis of MR along with other immunossuppressive conditions that make such recomendation prudent. A prime example is the higher prevalence of cardiopathy and blood discrasia among Down`s Syndrome individuals. There is not a medical specialty directed towards the care of individuals with MR. This condition calls for a multidisciplinary approach, because of its intrinsic heterogeneity. However, the  American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities is an example of a multidisciplinary aproach initiative to the care of this special population. The AAIDD offers fellowships for health professionals interested in the special neeeds of MR individuals and can provide further information on specialists, resources and local chapters on the issue.

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Response by:

Francisco   Gomez, MD Francisco Gomez, MD
Assistant Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati