Should My Kids Get the Flu Shot This Year?

Many parents have expressed concern over the last few months that this year’s influenza vaccine may be less effective than in years past and wondering, “Should my kids get the flu shot this year?” These concerns stem from data released after Australia’s flu season, where recent reports indicated low effectiveness of the vaccine.

“We’re using the same vaccine here in the United States, so people think it won’t be effective,” says Dr. Jasjit Singh, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and medical director of infection prevention and control at CHOC Children’s.

dr-jasjit-singh-choc-childrens
Dr. Jasjit Singh, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and medical director of infection prevention and control at CHOC Children’s., addresses parents’ annual concerns over, “Should my kids get the flu shot this year?”

These doubts are misguided, says Singh. Although reports show Australia’s vaccine was only 10 percent effective, that data was specifically looking at the H3N2 strain that had dominated the southern hemisphere this year, she says. Effectiveness against the same strain in the US has been as high as 30-40 percent, and even higher against other strains of influenza in the past.

“We can’t take that one statistic and apply it to all strains of the flu in the US this season,” Singh says.

It’s important for parents to remember that the although the vaccine helps prevent children and adults from getting the flu, physicians are especially concerned with preventing influenza-related hospitalizations or even death.

“People forget that children and adults can die from influenza. So far in the U.S. there have been nine pediatric flu-related deaths this season,” Singh says.

Since the 2004-2005 flu season, flu-related deaths in children have ranged from 37 to 171 each season, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

A recent study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics examined vaccine effectiveness in 291 pediatric influenza-associated pediatric deaths from 2010-2014. Vaccine effectiveness was 51 percent in children with high-risk conditions, compared to 65 percent in children without high-risk conditions.

“This shows that many of our deaths are in otherwise healthy children,” Singh says.

Although it’s best to get vaccinated early in the season, it’s better to be vaccinated later in the winter than not at all.

“Very often, people get vaccinated because someone they know has the flu. It takes two weeks for the vaccine to take effect, so if your child has been exposed to the flu in that time period, they can still get sick,” she says.

Parents should remember that children cannot get from the flu from getting a flu shot.

“The vaccine is not a live vaccine, so it’s impossible to get the flu from getting a flu shot,” Singh says. “the vaccine prevents influenza virus, but during winter months there are many other viruses that cause colds and respiratory viruses, that are usually milder than the flu.”

Those who decline a flu shot because they “never get the flu” still need to be vaccinated, she adds.

“It’s important to remember that some people may have minimal symptoms, but can still pass the virus to others who may be vulnerable to more severe disease.”

The single best way to protect your child from the flu is by getting them vaccinated each year. In addition to receiving an annual influenza vaccine, there are other things parents and caregivers can do to help prevent the flu. Use proper hand-washing techniques, use respiratory etiquette, and stay home from work or school if you are sick with the flu, to prevent spreading it to others.

Download your immunization guide

Related posts:

How to Prepare Your Family for Flu Season

Flu season is here, and there are several things you can do to help prepare your family for flu season.  Here, Dr. Daniel Mackey, a CHOC Children’s pediatrician, answers some of parents’ most common questions about how to prepare your family for flu season.

Dr. Daniel Mackey
Dr. Daniel Mackey, a CHOC Children’s pediatrician

Is the nasal flu vaccine available this year?

An advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently recommended that the nasal spray influenza vaccine not be used this upcoming flu season.

When should my child get a flu shot?

Vaccines are already available for the 2017-2018 influenza season. Children up to eight years of age who have not received a flu vaccine in the past may need two doses, four weeks apart.

Who needs a flu vaccine?

The CDC recommends the flu vaccine for all people age 6 months and older. Certain people are at higher risk of complications from the flu, so it’s especially important that these people (and people who live with them) get vaccinated. They include:

  • pregnant women
  • kids younger than age 5
  • people age 65 and older
  • people of any age who have long-term health conditions

Can my child get the flu from the flu vaccine?

No. You cannot get the flu from getting the flu vaccine. The vaccine prevents influenza, however it does not prevent against other strains of viruses.

What sort of flu season is expected this year?

Physicians can’t predict what the flu season will be like. Every influenza season, the severity and length varies, which is why it’s important to get vaccinated every year.

Besides ensuring their children get a flu vaccine, what else can parents do to help prevent the flu?

In addition to ensuring their child is vaccinated against the flu every year, there are many things parents and other caregivers can do to help prevent the flu. Use proper hand-washing techniques, use respiratory etiquette, and stay home from work or school if you are sick with the flu, to prevent spreading it to others.

Looking for a pediatrician? Find one near you.

Related posts:

Nasal Flu Vaccine Not Recommended This Season

An advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended that the nasal spray influenza vaccine not be used this upcoming flu season. In this Q&A, Dr. Jasjit Singh, medical director of infection prevention and control at CHOC Children’s, offers an explanation.

Dr. Jasjit Singh
Dr. Jasjit Singh

Q: What does this mean for influenza vaccine recommendations for the upcoming flu season?

A: All individuals over the age of 6 months are recommended to get the influenza vaccine, and that will continue to be the case.  However, for this season at least, the nasal flu vaccine is not an option. Therefore, parents will need to plan for their children to get the flu shot this upcoming season.

Q: How does the standard flu shot differ from the nasal spray version in terms of composition and effectiveness?

A: Both the flu shot and the nasal spray contain the anticipated predominant circulating strains of influenza every year, but the nasal spray strains are made of weakened live virus while the flu shot is made of inactivated viral components. The CDC reviewed data from this past season that suggested that the nasal spray did not perform as well as it had in the past.

Q: Besides ensuring their children get a flu shot, what else can parents do to help prevent the flu?

A: In addition to ensuring their child is vaccinated against the flu every year, there are many things parents and other caregivers can do to help prevent the flu. Use proper hand-washing techniques, use respiratory etiquette, and stay home from work or school if you are sick with the flu, to prevent spreading it to others.

Q: What do you anticipate will be parents’ reactions to this recommendation? Is there anything else you’d like them to know? Is there anything else you’d like to share with parents about the importance of vaccinations?

A:  Vaccinations are one of the most effective public health measures that have been developed and they save thousands of lives each year. Influenza vaccinations are important because young children can get quite sick from the flu, and some even require hospitalization. Every year there are pediatric deaths in the U.S. due to influenza, about half of which occur in normal healthy children. Children can pass influenza on to the elderly or other fragile members of our community. It’s important for adults to get the flu shot too, particularly those who are caring for young children. Even though the nasal spray is not an option for vaccinating this particular season, it is still important to have your child vaccinated for this year.

Related articles:

Flu Season Approaching, Take These Preventive Steps

Don’t be caught off guard, beat the flu this season! Flu season can start as early as October. CHOC Children’s and the American Academy of Pediatrics urge that all children ages 6 months or older — that means practically everyone! — be immunized against influenza as soon as the vaccine is available. It is especially important for people who are at high risk of complications from flu to get the flu vaccine, including:

  • Pregnant women
  • People 50 years of age and older
  • People of any age with chronic medical conditions
  • People who are immunosuppressed
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • Health care workers

Further, to protect a baby, who cannot get the flu vaccine, make sure that everyone in your home, as well as daycare providers get a flu vaccine. This reduces the likelihood of your baby coming into contact with this common and unpredictable virus.

Lastly, take everyday preventive steps to stop the spread of germs.

  • Wash your hands often and use respiratory etiquette during flu season. There are many other respiratory viruses out there besides the seasonal flu, and the flu vaccine cannot protect against all of them.
  • Use hand sanitizer.
  • Postpone play dates with sick kids.
  • Wear appropriate outdoor clothing.
  • If you are sick with the flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading influenza to others.

Contact your pediatrician or health care provider to check when the flu vaccine is available.

More articles about influenza:

Protect Against the Flu to Keep Children’s Learning on Track

Between fever and body aches, your child really suffers when flu-stricken – but the virus affects more than just your child’s health. Did you know that staying home with the flu affects your child’s learning, and has consequences for schools? Learn some more reasons why to protect against the flu in today’s guest post from Pamela Kahn, R.N., M.P.H., the Orange County Department of Education’s health and wellness coordinator.It’s no fun seeing your child laid low by the flu. As a parent, you do everything that you can to relieve the fever, body aches, chills, cough and stuffy nose that come with the flu, and to get your child back to normal again.

You aren’t the only one rooting for your child to stay healthy. The flu can have a profound impact on your child’s school. Infectious disease accounts for millions of lost school days a year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, school-aged children are the group with the highest rates of flu illness, and they tend to be the ones who spread the flu.

A recent study showed that about half of school absences during January and February were related to respiratory and intestinal flu-like sickness. In fact, school nurses report that during flu season they often see more than 16 students per day in their offices, and send home on average five sick students each day.

Students with influenza miss more school days than their healthy peers. It’s important to remember that students who miss too much school are less likely to succeed academically. Further, students aren’t the only ones at school affected by the flu: Teacher absenteeism costs time and money, as well as possibly having a negative effect on your student’s learning.

The flu season may also affect school finances. With absenteeism, the Average Daily Attendance rate (money schools receive from the government)  for students during the flu season can decrease by as much as 2 percent, costing the school much-needed dollars.

The effect of widespread flu vaccination protects not only your child, but the whole community because school-aged children can easily share the virus with classmates, teachers and other school staff. Children who are not vaccinated were 2.9 times more likely to get the flu compared with vaccinated children.

So, while good nutrition, plenty of rest, exercise, and reducing stress  all strengthen kids’ and parents’ overall disease resistance, being vaccinated against the flu has been shown to both decrease the rate of influenza infection and increase rates of school attendance, which is good for your child, their teacher and their school.

Related articles:

  • How to Prepare Your Family for Flu Season
    A CHOC Children’s pediatrician, answers some of parents’ most common questions about how to prepare your family for flu season.
  • Flu Season Approaching, Take These Preventive Steps
    Don’t be caught off guard, beat the flu this season! Flu season can start as early as October. CHOC Children’s and the American Academy of Pediatrics urge that all children ...
  • Kids and the Flu
    How do you distinguish a common cold from the flu (influenza)? When late fall rolls around, the flu usually rolls in with it. “The first few days with a ...