There’s a lot of misinformation about vaccines, and parents often have questions about their childrens’ immunizations – including the flu vaccine. As many of you may know, this year’s flu season has already started and will begin ramping up. Let's meet some of your questions head-on. Here are eight things parents need to know about the 2017 flu vaccine.
1)There is no nasal spray flu vaccine this year. Like last year, the nasal mist flu vaccine has been determined ineffective in preventing infection with the currently circulating strains of the flu. Because of this, the only type of vaccine available is a flu shot. While this may be a tough sell for some kids who aren't fond of needles, recent studies show that this flu vaccine reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40 and 60 percent.
2) You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. I talk with many parents who tell me they are concerned their child might catch the flu from the vaccine itself. Concerned parents can place this fear aside. The flu vaccine does not contain a live virus – it contains what is called an inactivated virus. What this means is while you might see some side effects of the vaccine, you will not catch the flu from it. The worst that most children experience is slight pain at the injection site and possibly a low-grade fever, and less often, body aches.
3) Most children should get the flu vaccine. In fact, unless your doctor tells you otherwise, any child older than 6 months should be vaccinated. Parents have also expressed concern that their child should not be vaccinated if they have an egg allergy. The vaccine is safe for almost all individuals who have egg allergies. If your child has a severe egg allergy, please inform your child’s pediatrician to determine if another type of vaccine is warranted.
4) The flu vaccine can be given simultaneously with other vaccines. If your child needs to be brought up to date on other vaccines, remember the flu vaccine while you're at it. It will save you a visit, and your child another injection later.
5) Although getting the flu vaccine does not guarantee it will prevent your child from catching the flu, being vaccinated is still really important. Research has shown that if your child catches the flu and has been vaccinated, they will likely experience milder symptoms and have less chance of requiring hospitalization. Ninety percent of the children who die from influenza every year were not immunized.
6) Moms should also be vaccinated. There is a long list of things to avoid while you are pregnant or breastfeeding, however, the flu vaccine isn't one of them. The flu vaccine is safe to get at any time during pregnancy. You will pass the benefits of the vaccine along to your baby (antibodies against the flu virus), protecting both you and your little one. This is especially important because your newborn will not be able to receive the vaccine until they are older than 6 months. That being said, make sure everyone in your household is vaccinated.
7) Sooner is always better than later. Flu season is about to begin ramping up, so it is important to get the vaccine into your child as soon as possible. Most physicians strongly recommend having your child vaccinated before the end of October.
8) There are some special requirements for children younger than 9 years who are getting the vaccine for the first time. If your child fits into this category, it’s important for you to know that these children should be vaccinated with two doses given 28 days or one month apart. This is another reason that being vaccinated early is important. Also, if your child is younger than 9 and only received one dose last season, they need two doses this season.
It’s November! If you have any questions about flu vaccination, speak to your pediatrician as soon as possible to help protect your child before the start of flu season.
Dr. Carlson is a board-certified pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Summer Creek Clinic. Her clinical interests include infectious diseases (both viral and bacterial), dermatologic diseases, development, and Adolescent Medicine.