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The Flu and You: What About Flu Shots?

Fighting the Flu

The most dreaded illness that looms for kids – and all of us – during the school year is the flu. And the best way to avoid getting sick is to get the flu vaccine each fall.

The 2011-2012 vaccine protects against the same three influenza strains as last year’s flu shot (it’s actually the fourth time in the past 25 years that the vaccine has remained the same for a second consecutive year). But the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently issued a new policy statement stressing the importance of getting a new flu shot this season, even for kids who got the vaccine last year. That’s because immunity drops by up to 50 percent six to 12 months after getting an influenza vaccination, the AAP says.

The AAP recommends that everyone ages 6 months or older get the influenza vaccine, but the pediatricians organization asks that people who care for or work around those most vulnerable to flu-related complications make a special effort to be vaccinated, including family members, people regularly in the home of and outside care providers for children under age 5 or children with high-risk conditions such as asthma, diabetes or neurologic disorders.

Health care personnel and all women who are pregnant, considering pregnancy or breastfeeding during flu season should also get vaccinated, the AAP says.
While parents of children with a mild egg allergy (with a reaction like hives) may be concerned about effects of the flu vaccine, the AAP says these kids can safely receive the shot without an allergy consultation. Parents of kids with a history of severe egg allergy (with cardiovascular, respiratory or gastrointestinal tract problems or requiring the use of epinephrine) should contact their allergist before seeking the flu vaccine, the pediatricians group says.

Specific recommendations for doses of the influenza vaccine this year include:

• one dose for kids ages 9 and up;

• one dose for kids ages 6 months to 8 years, if they received at least one dose of the flu vaccine last season;

• two doses for kids ages 6 months to 8 years, if they were not vaccinated for the flu at all last season. The second dose should be administered at least four weeks after the first.

The AAP continues to state that infants under 6 months of age are too young to be vaccinated.


Learn more about children’s health issues at www.kidshealth.org and about the flu, in particular, at www.healthychildren.org.

 

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