Along with the HPV vaccine, the pediatric flu vaccine has one of the lowest uptakes amongst children’s vaccinations – only around 40% of American children receive the vaccine. Unfortunately, a lot of this ignorance of the flu vaccine may result from an assumption that the flu is just not that serious of a disease. That thinking puts children at risk.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) posted an article on their website, “10 Things for Parents to Know About the 2017-2018 Flu Vaccine,” which gives some information about the pediatric flu vaccine. We’re going to give this list the feathery dinosaur’s treatment with a bit more pointed commentary and links. Because everyone loves links.
1. The flu is dangerous
Not to be overly dramatic, but the flu virus can cause serious complications and death, even for healthy children. Children under 5 are one of the most susceptible groups to the complications of flu.
The CDC estimates that since 2010, between 7,000 and 26,000 children younger than 5 years are hospitalized every year as a result of the flu. And since 2004-05, annual flu-related deaths have ranged from 37 deaths to 171 deaths.
And the best way to protect your children is with the pediatric flu vaccine. Although the flu can be treated with antiviral medications, these drugs are less effective if not started early, are fairly expensive, and may have bothersome side effects.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual influenza immunization for all people ages 6 months and older, including children and adolescents. In addition, household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children with high risk conditions and all children under the age of 5 especially should be vaccinated.
2. Now is the time to get your children vaccinated.
Pediatric flu vaccine shipments have already begun, and will continue through the fall and winter. Call your health care provider to ask when the vaccine will be available.
Infants and children up to 8 years of age receiving the flu shot for the first time may need two doses of the vaccine, administered four weeks apart. It is important that these children get their first dose as soon as possible to be sure they can complete both doses before the flu season begins.
3. This year’s flu vaccine is only available as a shot.
The CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) be given by intramuscular injection and is approved for children 6 months of age and older. Depending on the number of flu strains it contains, it is available in both trivalent (IIV3 – two A and one B virus) and quadrivalent (IIV4 – two A and two B viruses) forms.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that the intranasal flu vaccine not be used during the 2017-18 flu season.
4. It doesn’t matter which form of the vaccine you get.
The quadrivalent influenza vaccines for the 2017-2018 season contain the same three flu strains as the trivalent vaccine. However, the quadrivalent version contains an additional B strain. Although this may offer improved protection, the AAP and CDC does not give preference for one type of flu vaccine over another.
Parents shouldn’t delay getting the pediatric flu vaccine to wait for a specific version. Getting the vaccine early is more important than getting the trivalent or quadrivalent version of the vaccine.
5. You can’t get the flu from the flu vaccine.
This is one of the most annoying myths about the flu vaccine. Simply, flu vaccines are made from attenuated (killed) viruses, and they cannot come back alive to infect a person. Yes, there can be mild symptoms that appear post vaccination – nausea, fatigue, headache, muscle aches and chills, which may seem like the flu. But
Flu vaccines are made from killed viruses. Mild symptoms, such as nausea, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, and chills, can occur. And they may seem to be like the flu, but they aren’t even close to the severity of the real flu.
The side effects of the flu vaccine are mild (and nothing compared to having the flu). The most common side effects are pain and tenderness at the site of injection.
6. If you catch the flu and are vaccinated, you will get a milder form of the disease.
During the 2016-17 flu season, the flu vaccine was approximately 48% effective for all strains of the flu. There are lots of reasons for the low effectiveness, but it’s mostly because the vaccines’ antigens are determine far in advance of the flu season. The CDC and other national public health organizations, along with the World Health Organization, meet, usually in February prior to the next flu season, and try to ascertain which flu variants may be the most prevalent in the upcoming year.
There is good news however. A study has shown that those individuals vaccinated against the flu, but do get the flu, have a milder course of the disease. People who are not vaccinated will likely be in bed with fever and miserable and even could develop a complication.
7. There should be plenty of vaccine for everyone this year.
For the 2017-2018 season, manufacturers have projected that they will produce between up to 166 million doses of flu vaccine.
8. The influenza vaccine doesn’t cause autism.
There is no evidence that any vaccine is associated with autism. None. There are no robust or weak studies that also show that the flu vaccine is linked to autism.
9. The flu vaccine can be given at the same time as other vaccines.
The flu vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines, but at a different place on the body. It is also important to note that children 6 months through 8 years of age may need two doses spaced one month apart to be fully protected. These children should receive their first dose as soon as the vaccine is available in their community. Live vaccines (like the MMR and chickenpox vaccines) may be given together or at least 4 weeks apart.
10. Children with egg allergy can get the flu vaccine.
Children with an egg allergy can safely get the flu shot from their pediatrician. Children with a history of severe egg allergies should be vaccinated in a medical setting and be supervised by a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic conditions. This is not much different than the recommendation for any vaccine.
The flu is dangerous, it can cause hospitalizations and deaths in a significant number of children. To think otherwise, puts our children at risk.
The pediatric flu vaccine is a safe and relatively effective, and truly the only, method to prevent the flu.
Make sure your kids, and yourself, get vaccinated. It saves lives.
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