The Flu Shot for Kids: 2011 Influenza Vaccine Information

iStock_000009312975XSmall1.jpg

I’ve had mine. I’ve protected my family. What about you? http://youtu.be/F8mHKjSRNRI

NOW is the time find protection from the influenza virus. NOW is the time to find influenza vaccine for your kids. So, NOW is the time to get information about this year’s flu shot.

Here are my FAQs about flu:

1. What is influenza (“The Flu”)?

Influenza is a virus (Check out this video explaining, “what is a virus?”) that attacks the respiratory system (nose/throat/lungs).  Symptoms of the flu are runny nose, sore throat, high fever with chills, muscle aches, and headache. Influenza is not the “stomach flu”.

Protecting against influenza is important because the disease can lead to many complications, from ear infections to severe pneumonias to death. The oldest and youngest people of our community are most vulnerable to these complications.

2. How do I protect my family from this disease?

Get the influenza vaccine (the “flu shot”)!

3. What is actually in the flu shot?

The influenza vaccine contains bits of 3 selected types of influenza virus. These 3 types are selected from a large family of influenza virus-types by a group of vaccine experts. The virus types in the 2011 vaccine are the same as the 2010 vaccine, including protection from type H1N1 or “swine flu.” For technical information about how the influenza strains are chosen for each year’s vaccine, check the CDC.

The virus in the injected vaccine is killed and is unable to cause infection. Please see #4 for information about FluMist®.

4. What is FluMist® and how is it different from the injectable flu shot?

The FluMist® a form of the influenza vaccine that is given by a nasal spray. Unlike the injectable influenza vaccine, FluMist® contains weakened, live influenza particles.  This allows the body to create an active immune response to the virus without causing the disease in recipients.

FluMist® is available for kids 2-49 years old, with certain restrictions. It is not appropriate for those with some medical conditions, including severe asthma, or pregnant women.  For detailed information to determine if the FluMist® is right for your children, check the CDC.

5. Who needs the flu shot?

The CDC and AAP recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months receive an influenza vaccine.

In addition, all caregivers and siblings of children under 5 years should be protected for the sake of the child in their care.

I believe people at especially high risk of complications from influenza should make this vaccine a priority.

These people include:

  • children under the age of 5.
  • those with asthma, diabetes, or any chronic illness.
  • families and care providers of children under the age of 6 months.
  • pregnant women.
  • families of pregnant women.
  • health care providers.

Those aged 9 and above only need one influenza vaccine (injectable or FluMist®).  Those under the age of 9 may need 2 vaccines separated by 4 weeks based previous exposure to the vaccine.  Please ask your provider if your child needs one or two vaccines this season.

6. Can I get the influenza vaccine if I am breastfeeding?

YES! We know breast feeding provides a layer of protection for infants against many cold and flu viruses. By vaccinating yourself and keeping yourself healthy, you are able to passively give your baby protection through your breast milk. More info about breastfeeding moms and the flu vaccine here.

Breast feeding moms may receive either the injected flu shot or the FluMist®.

7. Who cannot get the flu shot?

Anyone with a severe allergy to eggs cannot get the influenza vaccine. A mild allergy to egg protein is no longer a contraindication for getting the flu vaccine. Please talk with your allergist if this may apply to someone in your family.

If a person has had a severe reactions to the influenza vaccine in the past should not get the vaccine again, including anaphylaxis and Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

For additional detailed recommendations about vaccine restrictions for each vaccine type, look here.

8. How long does the protection from the flu shot last?

The influenza vaccine provides protection for the entire season.  It is not “too early” to get the vaccine.  Once the vaccine is available, it is time to get vaccinated.  The protection provided from the influenza vaccine does not reach its peak until at least 2 weeks after getting vaccinated.  Getting vaccinated early in the fall season, before influenza is at its peak in the community, is best.

9. I’ve heard that I can get the flu from the shot, is that true?

The influenza vaccine does not contain active particles strong enough to cause infection.

For those individuals who have never had the influenza disease or the influenza vaccine in prior seasons, the side effects of muscle soreness muscle aches, and fever are most common.

10. Does the influenza vaccine work?

Yes. During last year’s influenza season nearly half of all children who died from influenza were previously healthy and were not vaccinated. It is additional evidence the vaccine is protective for our kids.

Although no vaccine provides perfect protection, the flu shot is a person’s best defense against getting influenza and its complications. Watch this quick video from Dr. Feemster for more information.

11. If I do get influenza, isn’t there medication I can take to get better? So, why do I need to vaccinate?

There is no antibiotic that can help cure influenza since it is a virus.  There are anti-viral medications that can be taken to decrease the length of the illness in people with certain medical conditions. These medications are not routinely given to otherwise healthy individuals. Vaccination is still your best protection for contracting and spreading the disease to you and your loved ones.

12. This info is great, but what if I have more questions?

Talk to your child's pediatrician or health care provide to get their take on the flu vaccine. Until then, see these reputable web sites for more information:

Here's to a happy and healthy fall!