The kids are back to school, fall weather is coming on fast (at least for the moment) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released 255 lots of flu vaccine for distribution. You’ve probably seen the “Get Your Flu Shot Here!” signs popping up at area grocery and drug stores – and it’s not too early to protect yourself from the strains of influenza experts believe we’ll be contending with this fall and winter.
This year’s flu vaccine covers the same trio of strains as last year’s (Influenza A [H3N2], Influenza A [H1N1] and Influenza B), but that doesn’t mean you can skip your shot.
According to Carolyn Bridges, MD, Associate Director for Adult Immunization with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, “levels of protective antibodies can decrease, especially in the elderly and people who have compromised immune systems.” That means the protective power of last year’s vaccine won’t get you through this season. You’ll need your annual shot to give you a fighting chance against the flu.
As in previous years, the vaccine is recommended for everyone ages six months and older (unless you have a serious egg allergy).
In the past, children with egg allergies were told to skip the flu vaccine to avoid a potential reaction. This year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says children with a history of mild egg allergy (like hives) can safely receive the vaccine. Parents of children who have a history of more serious allergic reactions to eggs (cardiovascular changes, trouble breathing, etc.) should talk to an allergist to decide if the vaccine is appropriate.
One dose or two?
For anyone nine years of age and older, only one dose of the flu vaccine is necessary. The following guidelines from the AAP outline their recommendations for children younger than nine:
- Infants younger than 6 months are too young to be immunized.
- Children 6 months through 8 years of age need only 1 dose of the 2011-2012 influenza vaccine if they received at least 1 dose last season.
- Children 6 months through 8 years of age should receive 2 doses if they did not receive any vaccine last season. The second dose should be administered at least 4 weeks after the first.
Advice for Pregnant Women
Expecting? Get your flu shot.
Babies born to mothers who received a flu shot were about 46% less likely to be hospitalized with the flu than babies born to unvaccinated mothers. If your baby is due during flu season (October through May), getting your flu shot and passing along those protective antibodies is particularly important.
In short, make the time, “suffer” through the pinch and you’ll be armed and ready to fight off the flu when it hits. HealthyChildren.org has more information on additional steps you can take to keep your family healthy this fall and winter, along with tips you can follow if the flu invades your home.