Children’s Flu Vaccine: Is It A Must?

Dr Vinod Garg
Children’s Flu Vaccine: Is It A Must?

Your baby needs to get a lot of vaccines, flu shots for children being one of them.


Influenza (or “the flu”) is an infection of the respiratory system that is caused by the influenza virus. Kids, especially those younger than 5 years, are at higher risk for serious influenza virus related complications.


The flu vaccine for children has proven to be the best defence against the flu virus; thus preventing it from spreading to others. Vaccination using the flu vaccine can decrease the rate of flu illnesses, physician visits, missed school days and prevent flu-related hospitalizations and mortality in children.


What is the need for a flu vaccine for children?


Influenza is more dangerous than the usual common cold in children. Millions of children are sick with flu each year, thousands are hospitalized, and a few also die from the flu. Young children usually catch and spread the influenza virus more than any other age group. Toddlers, children with weak immune systems, and pregnant women are at high risk for complications of influenza, such as pneumonia.


Vaccination is till date the most effective method to prevent getting a flu and are less likely to catch the flu virus compared to those who are unvaccinated. On an average, about 50-60 % of the children that have been vaccinated have shown a reduced risk of flu.


When to get flu shots for your kid?

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommends yearly influenza vaccination for all people ages 6 months and older, including children and teenagers (babies younger than 6 months aren't old enough to get the flu vaccine). Household contacts, other caregivers of children, and all children under the age of 5 should be vaccinated.
Influenza vaccine composition is usually changed each year after assessing the genetic composition of the spreading influenza virus strains at that time. Flu viruses constantly evolve, and thus the vaccine needs to be “cleverer” each year to provide effective immunity against flu.


Influenza vaccine schedule in children             

Age

Vaccine dose

Initial Vaccination

Subsequent Vaccination

6-35 months

0.25 mL

2 doses, 1 month apart

Single annual dose as soon as new vaccine is released

3-8 years

0.5 mL

2 doses, 1 month apart

≥ 9 years

0.5 mL

1 dose

                       

Where to get flu shots?

Usually, the flu shots for kids are available at the nearby paediatric clinic. But if you need to have your child vaccinated elsewhere, here are some options you could consider:

  • Your local or state health department is a good place to go
  • Pharmacies, grocery stores, community centres, churches, schools and other venues sometimes offer flu shots. Be alert regarding advertisements and notices about flu vaccines.
  • A lot of places that offer flu shots outside a hospital or clinic may not give the flu vaccine for toddlers, especially kids under age of 4, but this restriction can be waived if your kid’s doctor will write a prescription for a flu shot.
  • Flu vaccines aren’t that expensive, but most insurance plans cover childhood immunizations like a flu shot for children.


The type of influenza vaccine (trivalent or quadrivalent) doesn’t matter, but make sure that you get your kid vaccinated as flu viruses are easily spread especially in kids below the age of 4. The flu vaccine can also be given along with other vaccines, but at a different site in the body. The flu shots for children can cause mild side effects like nausea, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, pain or tenderness where the injection was given. Fever is most commonly seen within 24 hours after vaccination, especially in children smaller than 2 years of age, but don’t you worry, these symptoms resolve themselves within a couple of days. Though it is not guaranteed that after the flu shots your kid will never get the flu, but it is assured that vaccinated children will only get a milder form of the disease!

 

Also read: A single vaccine to battle 6 diseases!

 

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