Who Needs a Flu Vaccine?

Practically everyone. This year’s seasonal flu vaccine is recommended for everybody 6 months and older. That includes healthy kids, as well as those with medical conditions. And it also includes you, Mom, especially if you are pregnant. Did you know the flu vaccine will protect you and your baby now — and your baby for the first few months of life?

CHOC Children’s infectious diseases specialist Jasjit Singh, M.D., has some helpful answers to questions we’re frequently asked about the seasonal flu vaccine.

Q. Why does a healthy child need a flu vaccine?
A. A child’s health status does not automatically prevent some of the serious complications associated with the flu. Children under 1 year of age who get the seasonal flu have extremely high rates of hospitalization. And in the last few years, half of the pediatric deaths from influenza have occurred in previously healthy children. This year’s flu vaccine protects against two new influenza strains, plus the H1N1 virus.

Q. My baby is younger than 6 months — how can I protect him during flu season?
A. Make sure that everyone in your home — siblings and grandparents, too — and daycare providers get a flu vaccine. This reduces the likelihood of your baby coming into contact with the virus. Also important: Wash your hands 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.

Q. I’ve been hearing about “herd immunity” — what is that exactly?
A. Herd immunity protects the youngest, most vulnerable members of our community who cannot get the flu vaccine. When more members of the community are immunized, there is less chance of an influenza outbreak.
Also, some children have weak immune systems and remain vulnerable even after getting the flu vaccine. Their protection depends on herd immunity, as well.

Q. I’ve heard there is a nasal mist alternative to the shot.
A. The traditional flu shot is approved for children 6 months and older. The intranasal flu vaccine is an option for healthy kids 2 and older.

Earlier is better, but it’s not too late to get a flu vaccine. Contact your pediatrician.

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