Ideally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for all children ages 6 months and over by the end of October. Obviously, it can be given later than the end of October, but the preferred timing is to get it in time for the beginning of the flu season.
Influenza or “The Flu” (as many refer to it) is a respiratory infection which has the potential to cause complications particularly in very young children or children with underlying health issues such as asthma. The vaccine reduces the risk of dying from the flu as well as any other serious aftereffects.
Getting this vaccine has always been important. However, due to COVID 19 also being present currently, it is even more important to get this vaccine. The flu vaccine can reduce symptoms that could be confused as being COVID-19 and/or that may complicate a case of COVID-19. Preventing the flu and reducing symptoms will help reduce hospitalizations for the flu in an already heavily COVID-19-burdened hospital system. This is particularly important for children younger than 12 who are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccines yet.
The flu vaccine is available in two forms depending on the age of your child. The doses given depend on the child’s age as well.
Flu shot– for children 6 months and older. Common side effects can be redness at the site of the vaccine, soreness, fever and tiredness or malaise – all of which are temporary. Nasal Spray– for children aged 2 and older. The nasal spray is not usually given to asthmatics aged 2 to 4 years of age, anyone taking aspirin regularly or one who has an already compromised immune system. Side effects can be wheezing, muscle aches, vomiting, sore throat, or slight fever – all temporary.
Two doses of the vaccine are required and given 4 weeks apart for anyone younger than 9 years of age getting the vaccine for the first time or who only had one dose of it prior to 2021. Anyone else will require just one dose.
The flu vaccine cannot give your child the flu. The nasal spray contains weakened strains which cannot make a person sick with the flu and the shot contains inactive viruses. The flu vaccine will not protect against covid and the covid vaccine will not protect against the flu. It will only prevent extra complications from having both covid and the flu at the same time or within the same time period. Most children should get the flu vaccine but there are certain circumstances under which a child should not receive the vaccine. Be sure to discuss those circumstances thoroughly with your child’s pediatrician.
The flu vaccine takes two weeks following the vaccination to provide protection. As with any issue or concern with regards to your child, his/her pediatrician or other healthcare provider is the perfect individual with whom to discuss the flu vaccine. If you have not already done so, schedule an appointment and make sure your child is protected.
FIGHT THE FLU – GET A FLU SHOT!
Luis Velasquez MD FAAP
Director of Pediatrics
Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center