Children and Flu Vaccine
The The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual influenza (flu) vaccination for all persons 6 months of age and older, including children. Flu vaccination is especially important for children under 5 years and for children with high-risk medical conditions who can become very ill if they get the flu. Moreover, studies have shown that vaccinating children who attend daycare or school helps prevent them from bringing the flu home. In short, flu vaccination is good for both kids and their households.
Infants under 6 months are a special case. They are at particularly high risk from the flu, but current vaccines are not effective in this age group. So to help protect these kids, we strongly recommend that everyone who has close contact with them (e.g. family members and daycare workers) get vaccinated against the flu. Such “cocooning” builds a wall of protection around the baby. In addition, it is important for close contacts of children under 5 years of age or children of any age with high-risk medical conditions to also get the flu vaccine.
Flu vaccination usually starts in September or October and continues throughout the flu season (when people are getting the flu, generally considered to be November-April). If a child needs two flu vaccinations (see "Parents, please note" section below), it is better to start early since the two vaccinations need to be at least one month apart. PAMF pediatric patients may get their flu vaccinations in their primary care doctor’s office or at one of PAMF’s flu vaccine clinics.
The traditional "flu shot" is available to all patients over 6 months. "FluMist," the nasal spray vaccine, is available to generally healthy, non-pregnant individuals 2-49 years of age. For the first time in the 2014-2015 flu season, the CDC expresses a preference for the FluMist nasal vaccine over the flu shot in children 2-8 years of age who have no contraindications to the vaccine (e.g. aspirin therapy, egg allergy, severe allergy to flu vaccine, active asthma or wheezing in children 2-4 years of age). Both vaccines are effective but studies suggest that FluMist is better at preventing laboratory-confirmed influenza and ear infections. For the more serious complication of hospitalization, there is no difference between the two vaccines. So for 2-8 year olds you might want to try FluMist this year if it is immediately available when you bring your kids in to get vaccinated. Otherwise, the flu shot is still a trusty vaccine for 2-8 year olds and everyone else over 6 months.
Both standard-dose flu shots and nasal spray flu vaccine will be quadrivalent again this year. This means that these vaccines contain 4 flu strains instead of three as in the familiar trivalent vaccine. An extra B strain has been added in an effort to broaden protection against type B flu since predicting which B strain will predominate in any given year is difficult. The excellent safety profile of the quadrivalent vaccine is similar to that of the trivalent vaccine we are all used to. We plan to offer preservative-free, latex-free, quadrivalent flu vaccine to almost all PAMF patients (two specialty vaccines used in adults are still trivalent).
Parents, please note: Some children 6 months through 8 years of age may need two flu vaccinations (at least one month apart) instead of just 1 vaccination. In most cases, your child will need two doses unless they have received two or more doses of seasonal influenza vaccine since July 1, 2010, or they got a single flu vaccination in the 2013-2014 season. Please see this CDC web page for details. If two doses are necessary, it is important for your child to get them both to achieve the best protection against the flu.
For more information on flu vaccine (including, indications, contraindications and adverse effects) see our FAQs About the Seasonal Flu Vaccine.
Last updated 8/2014
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