Pediatricians say vaccine is the best way to protect children against flu

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 80 percent of the 186 children who died from flu-associated complications during the 2017-18 season had not been vaccinated against influenza.

| 27 Sep 2019 | 05:29

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children 6 months and older get vaccinated for influenza, preferably by the end of October.

The Academy expresses no preference for the shot or the nasal spray vaccine this season, in accordance with guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The best way to keep children healthy and in school is to get the flu vaccine by the end of October,” said Flor Munoz, a member of the Academy's Committee on Infectious Diseases. “The flu virus is unpredictable, spreads easily and can cause serious illness, so we urge vaccination in children and adolescents to protect them, their family and community, as well.”

The annual flu vaccine significantly reduces a child's risk of severe influenza and death, especially in children younger than five and those with underlying medical conditions. As of Aug. 10, the CDC reported 129 influenza-associated pediatric deaths during the 2018-2019 season. During the 2017-18 season, the CDC estimated that 80 percent of the 186 children who died from flu-associated complications had not been vaccinated against influenza.

This year, all influenza vaccines will be quadrivalent vaccines, protecting against the four strains of the influenza virus expected to circulate this season, including two A and two B strains. All licensed vaccines contain the same influenza viruses. The quadrivalent inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV4) is available for intramuscular injection for everyone 6 months of age and older, including healthy people and those with high-risk conditions. The live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV4) is a nasal spray mist that is also appropriate for healthy children 2 years of age and older.

Antiviral medications are important in treating and controlling influenza, but they are not a substitute for vaccination.

“Why take a chance with the flu?" Dr. Munoz said. "Please vaccinate!”

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics:

From infants to teenagers:
Influenza vaccines are not licensed for infants younger than six months, so it is important that the people around them are vaccinated and that their mothers receive the influenza vaccine during pregnancy. Postpartum women who were not vaccinated during pregnancy are encouraged to receive the flu vaccine before discharge from the hospital. Receiving the vaccine while breastfeeding is safe for mothers and their infants.
Children 6 months through 8 years old may need two doses, depending on their vaccination history. Two doses are needed for children receiving influenza vaccine for the first time and for any child who has not received two doses of vaccine prior to July 1, 2019 (even if given in different seasons). The interval between the two doses should be at least four weeks. Start vaccinating these children as soon as it becomes available in order to finish both doses by the end of October.
Children age 9 and older need only one dose of influenza vaccine.