POST TIME: 5 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM
All children should receive flu vaccine ASAP, doctors advise

All children should 
receive flu vaccine 
ASAP, doctors advise

All children six months of age and older should have a flu shot, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says. A flu shot significantly reduces a child's risk of severe illness and flu-related death, according to the policy statement published online September 3 in the journal Pediatrics. "The flu virus is common -- and unpredictable. It can cause serious complications even in healthy children," said Dr. Flor Munoz of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases. "Being immunized reduces the risk of a child being hospitalized due to flu."

The 2017-2018 flu season was one of the most severe on record, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of August 18, 2018, thousands of US children were hospitalized and 179 kids died of flu-related causes. About 80 per cent of the children who died had not had a flu shot, according to the CDC.

Pediatricians should offer flu vaccine injections to all children six months and older as soon as it becomes available, preferably by the end of October, the AAP said in a news release.

An injection is the best choice, because it has provided the most consistent protection against all strains of the flu virus in recent years, the AAP advised.

The nasal spray vaccine has been less effective in the past few flu seasons. But it can be used for children who would otherwise not receive flu vaccine, as long as they are two years of age or older, are healthy and do not have an underlying medical condition, the AAP said. For example, the nasal spray would be appropriate if a child refuses an injection or if a doctor's office runs out of flu shots.

The number of doses of flu vaccine depends on a child's age and vaccine history. Children between six months and eight years of age require two doses the first time they are vaccinated against flu. Children nine years of age and older require only one dose, regardless of their vaccination history, the AAP said.

Children with egg allergy can receive flu vaccine with the same precautions considered for any vaccine. Pregnant women can be given the injected flu vaccine at any time.

Babies and children six months to nine years of age who have never had a flu shot will need two doses of the vaccine, given at least four weeks apart.

Children who had one or more doses of the regular seasonal flu shot in the past will only need one dose per year.

Children under five years old are at higher risk of complications from the flu – such as high fever, convulsions and pneumonia. If you have children younger than five years old or who have health complications, everyone living in the house should get a flu shot. This is especially important if you have children under six months old or a member of your household who is pregnant.