General Health & Wellness • Oct 11, 2010

Why do you need the flu vaccine?

It’s that time of the year again — sniffles, colds, and the flu.  Please get the flu vaccine and make sure your children do too!  Influenza can be quite serious, and can lead to hospitalization and even death.  It is important to get the flu vaccine to protect you, your children, and reduce the chance of spreading the virus to others. 

Commonly questions about the flu vaccine:

1)  Why do I need to get the flu vaccine every year?

 There are several flu viruses, and the viruses seen this year may be quite different from the ones that circulated last year.  Thus, the immunity you developed either by getting the flu previously or from last year’s vaccine may not protect you against the viruses that are circulating this year.  Each year, many organizations around the world collect flu viruses from their locale and send them to one of four World Health Organization (WHO) reference laboratories.  Based on the pattern of circulating viruses that are seen, the WHO in collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) selects three of the most prevalent viruses to make the vaccine for each year.  The vaccine for this year (2010-2011) includes the 2009 H1N1 (swine flu) virus in addition to two other virus strains which were not included in last year’s vaccine.  Therefore, it is important to get the flu vaccine each year so that you are protected against the viruses seen during the current year.

2)  My child got the H1N1 vaccine last year, should he/she get the vaccine this year?

Absolutely!!!  Remember the flu vaccine from this year includes the 2009 H1N1 (swine flu) virus and two other virus strains which were not included in the vaccine from last year. 

3)  Who should get the flu vaccine?

 Everyone 6 months of age and older should get the flu vaccine.  It is especially important for certain groups to get vaccinated because they are at higher risk for flu related complications.  The high risk groups are:

a)  Pregnant women

b)  Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old

c)  People 50 years of age or older

d)  Persons of any age who have chronic medical conditions such as asthma or other lung problems, diabetes, heart or kidney disease, sickle cell anemia, etc

e)  People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities

f)  People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu

4)  How many doses of the flu vaccine does my child need?

 According to the CDC guidelines, all children between 6 months and 8 year of age should receive 2 doses of the 2010-2011 flu vaccine at least 28 days apart, unless they have received:

1)  At least 1 dose of the 2009 H1N1 vaccine during last year’s flu season, and

2)  At least 1 dose of seasonal vaccine prior to the 2009-2010 flu season OR 2 doses of 2009-10 seasonal flu vaccine last year.

In order for your child to get both doses before the flu virus starts circulating in the community, PLEASE get the first dose as soon as possible.  The flu vaccine is available right now at lots of different places – there is no shortage like last year. 

5)  Can I get the flu from the flu vaccine?

NO.  The flu shot has only killed virus (inactivated) and, therefore, cannot cause an infection.  The nasal spray vaccine has live virus, but it is attenuated (weakened) and cannot cause flu illness.  The weakened virus is also cold adapted, which means that it can only grow in the cooler temperatures found within the nose and not at the warmer temperatures of your lungs. 

6)  What type of flu vaccine should my child get?

The flu shot can be given to anyone 6 months of age or older.  The nasal spray vaccine (FluMist) is approved only for healthy people 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant.  Flu Mist cannot be given to anyone with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, heart or lung or kidney disease or people with weakened immune system, children less than 5 years old with a history of recurrent wheezing, children or adolescents who are taking aspirin.

Neither the flu shot nor the FluMist can be given to anyone with egg allergy or with a previous history of Guillian-Barre syndrome after receiving influenza vaccine.