Pediatricians are advising parents to have their children vaccinated against the flu early, and not to wait for a new flu vaccine that may not be available right away. The newer type of flu vaccine will vaccinate against four strains of influenza virus, compared with three strains in the standard vaccine.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says parents should have their kids vaccinated as soon as their pediatricians have vaccines in stock. In a statement in the October issue of Pediatrics, the group noted that while the four-strain vaccine may offer improved protection, the most important thing is being vaccinated before the flu virus starts circulating heavily.
“Parents should not delay vaccinating their children to obtain a specific vaccine,” said pediatrician Henry Bernstein, D.O., FAAP, the lead author of the AAP’s flu recommendations. “Influenza virus is unpredictable, and what’s most important is that people receive the vaccine soon, so that they will be protected when the virus begins circulating.”
What does he mean by “unpredictable”? The CDC explains that although the flu virus usually peaks in January or February, the flu virus is actually circulating all year ’round — including in the summer months. In fact, the CDC’s reporting system shows that one child died in August of this year from influenza complications.
The popular needle-free FluMist vaccine will be the four-strain version, reports NBC News. FluMist is approved for most healthy people, aged 2 to 49. The CDC notes that the FluMist vaccine, which is a nasal spray, is not recommended for children and adults with asthma.
And like all flu vaccines, only a doctor should decide if someone with an allergy to chicken eggs should receive FluMist.
Speaking of egg allergies, good news: there is now a vaccine specifically developed without using eggs. Bad news: so far, it’s only been approved for use in adults. The egg-free vaccine, called FluBlok, is a three-strain variety, by the way.
The AAP says that recent data show that most people who have an egg allergy can receive the inactivated influenza vaccine. Obviously, that’s something to discuss with your child’s pediatrician or allergist. Until my son outgrew his egg allergy, we used the inactivated vaccine, but he’d get the vaccine done at his allergist’s office — inside a children’s hospital. Although the vaccine presented a very small risk of allergic reaction for my son, he also has asthma — making the benefit of avoiding the flu very much worth the risk.
Including the child who died last month, 160 US children have died from influenza complications in 2012, reports the CDC. Slightly over half of those children (52%) had underlying “high-risk” medical issues, like asthma. The other 48% were otherwise typically healthy kids.
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