We are rapidly approaching the beginning of our annual influenza(flu) season which typically runs October through May. Getting the flu vaccine has been shown to be the best preventative measure to take in order to minimize the negative effects, complications, and deaths from influenza.
There has been a yearly ongoing urban legend debate about the safety of the influenza (flu) vaccine. In a single sentence I would summarize the reality of things like this: The unvaccinated child not only is at increased risk of death or serious complications themselves but also puts those with a higher chance of complications or those who are not candidates to be vaccinated at risk. It also must be noted that over 80 percent of the children that die each year from influenza were not vaccinated.
The Flu Vaccine Guidelines
The American Academy of Pediatrics(AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) have released their flu vaccine recommendations for the 2017-2018 flu season. The AAP just released their policy statement titled “Recommendations for Prevention and Control of Influenza in Children, 2017-2018“. In this statement, they recommend receiving the vaccination by the end of October, if possible. This statement was created alongside the CDC Recommendation. Here are some of the key takeaways from the AAP policy statement:
- The vaccine should be given to children 6 months old and older.
- If possible, get children vaccinated by the end of October.
- The recommended vaccine is either of the two types of injectables (trivalent or quadrivalent). Neither of these two is preferred over the other.
- The flu nasal spray is not recommended under any circumstance due to its decreased effectiveness compared to the injection.
- Special effort should be used to make sure that all children at high risk of complications get vaccinated. This includes children who were born premature and those with chronic medical conditions, including asthma and other lung problems, heart disease, diabetes, and weakened immune systems, among others.
- The vaccine should be given to all pregnant women at any time during pregnancy, women considering getting pregnant, or those who will be immediately post-delivery during the flu season.
- Child care providers, staff, and all health care personnel should receive the flu vaccination as they often work with others at high risk of complication.
The number of influenza vaccine doses depends on the age of the patient and their history of being vaccinated.
- Less than 6 months old: no vaccine. It is not approved for this age group.
- 6 months through 8 years old:
- 1 dose if they have previously received 2 or more doses of any of the trivalent or quadrivalent vaccines in prior years.
- 2 doses if they have had fewer than 2 doses of any of the trivalent or quadrivalent influenza vaccines before July 1, 2017.
- If 2 doses are needed, they should receive the second dose 4 or more weeks after the first dose.
- 9 years or older: only 1 dose of vaccine is needed.
Benefits of the vaccine
So how well do these vaccines work? Prior studies have show that the flu vaccine can decrease the number of children being admitted to the Pediatric ICU for flu related complication by 74%. For adults, studies have also shown reduction for influenza related complications, generally in the 70% range too. The protection given to a pregnant mother by the vaccine is transferred to the baby and decreases the baby’s risk of getting the flu by about 50%. This protection for the baby lasts for several months after birth.
Obviously from the above numbers, it is clear that the vaccine does not offer 100% protection, but provides a significant benefit to those vaccinated and is our current best method of minimizing the discomfort, lost time, and risk from this infection. When your child does get hit with the flu even though you received the vaccine, there is some evidence suggesting that the illness may be milder than if the vaccine was not received.
What it does not protect against
Also, remember that the flu vaccine does not protect against other non-influenza viruses that cause the “common cold” like Rhinovirus, Coronavirus, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus. There is an often repeated statement that someone got the flu vaccine but then got the flu anyway so it is not worth getting. While it may be true that the illness was influenza, it may simply have been one of the other “common cold” viruses causing similar symptoms as most of the time in most of the people, the vaccine is safe and protective against influenza.
Getting seen if you get it
But if you or a family member does come down with the flu or one of the other viruses, Care on Location is capable of providing an easy method of evaluation. Often-times with the flu, the energy or desire to get out of bed or off the couch is gone. Well, now staying in bed is allowed. A medical provider can see you or your child by laptop or tablet from the bed, couch, or anywhere else. While we recommend using a thermometer to check for fever, measure the heart rate (use a heart rate monitor or count pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by 6), and preferably check the blood pressure if a monitor is available, these are not requirements to be seen. We can help provide guidance for how to best beat the flu symptoms. REGISTER NOW before you need us.
Photo of sick child ? with flu surrounded by pets. Child on floor looking at laptop. Photo obtained from https://www.flickr.com/photos/vintagechica/ under creative commons license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode