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Concerned Parents Call For Increased Transparency On Pediatric Flu Deaths

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Four children in New York City and two in New Jersey have died from the flu in what's been an unusually severe season.

Many parents were expressing frustration Wednesday because of a lack of information about the children who have passed away, demanding to know whether or not they received the flu vaccine or if there were underlying health issues that made matters worse.

MOREComplete Flu Resource Guide

Some say knowing the young victims' vaccination histories could bring comfort to families who are concerned that a flu shot may not be enough to protect their own children.

6-year-old Nevaeh Hernandez of North Bergen was the second child in New Jersey to die of the flu. Her tragic death has sent frightening concerns across the Tri-State Area, as privacy laws prohibit the Health Department from reporting if she had the flu shot.

Some parents believe state authorities should relax the the rules by, at the very least, informing the public if the child was vaccinated.

Officials from the Department of Health say they understand the concern from parents.

"We do have to balance the need to protect the privacy of individuals and protect the privacy of those who have suffered loss unfortunately related to flu," Dr. Tina Tan told CBS2's Hazel Sanchez.

Officials say more than 60 children have died from the flu this season, including four in New York City. NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett couldn't say Wednesday if the children were vaccinated. She did speak in generalities about what past cases revealed.

"Not speaking to these individual cases, we see very few children who have fatal flu have been vaccinated," she said. "The majority are not vaccinated."

Dr. Tan says there have been cases where children who received the vaccination have died, but the risk is reduced when you do receive it.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control shows the flu vaccine can reduce a healthy child's risk of dying from the virus by two-thirds, and lowers the risk by fifty percent for children with underlying medical conditions.

"No vaccine is 100 percent effective, but we do know that the flu vaccine will help protect the individuals from more severe illness if for some reason they still get infected with the flu," Dr. Tan said.

With the flu season extending into May, doctors and officials remind everyone it isn't too late to get the vaccine.

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