2016-2017 Flu Season

Every year there seems to be some issue that leads to flu shot shortages and delays, and this year is no different!  The advisory committees have recommended that the commonly used (and preferred by kids!) nasal mist formulation of the flu vaccine not be used this year due to recent ineffectiveness.  Due to these recommendations we will not be offering Flumist this season.  We will increase our order for the injectible formulation to compensate for this change.  Anyone who wants a flu shot should be able to get one.  We have already begun vaccinating our patients at check ups when indicated.

New Flu Vaccine Recommendations

As many parents know, kids who are under age nine get two doses of the flu vaccine the first year that they get immunized. However, if for some reason they only got one (say, due to a vaccine shortage), it was thought that they could continue with the one dose a year routine the following flu season like everyone else.

The latest flu vaccine recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), however, state that children who received only one dose of the flu vaccine during their first season of getting it still need two doses the following year. Remember, though, that this only applies to kids under age nine.

The ACIP now says that:

  • anyone can get a flu vaccine, even if they aren't high risk, if they want to decrease their risk of getting the flu or getting other people sick
  • kids can get their flu vaccine at any time during the flu season, although it would be best to get it before the flu season starts or as early in the flu season as possible

When Should You Get Your Flu Shot

In the past  because of the shortages and delays, you didn't have much choice over when you could get your kids vaccinated. Most parents simply tried to get their kids vaccinated as soon as they could.  When there's a ready supply of flu vaccine, as there is this season, you'll want to get your child vaccinated before flu season starts or as early as possible during flu season. You could get your flu vaccine at any time, but the later you wait, the greater the risk that your child will catch the flu before he is protected by his flu vaccine. Keep in mind that a typical flu season usually begins in December, peaks in February, and may continue until March.  Pediatricians will usually begin giving flu vaccine, if they have it, by mid-October and will hopefully finish vaccinating the majority of their patients by December.

Because children under age nine need two doses of flu vaccine to get full protection when vaccinated for the first time, they can get their first shot in September.  We have started offering the vaccine at routine check ups and some office visits if two doses are needed.

Who Needs a Flu Shot

High-risk groups who should get a flu shot this flu season include:

  • children age 6 to 59 months
  • pregnant women and women who will be pregnant during flu season (usually October to March)
  • adults age 50 years and older
  • children and adults with most chronic health conditions, including asthma, diabetes, neurological and neuromuscular disorders (cerebral palsy, seizures, muscular dystrophy, etc.), and immune system problems
  • children and teens who are taking aspirin because of the risk of Reye syndrome
  • residents of long-term care facilities
  • household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children younger than 6 months, or in other high-risk groups above
  • healthcare personnel who provide direct patient care

Keep in mind that the 'household contacts' part places a lot of extra kids into a high-risk group who should get a flu vaccine. For example, if you have a 3-year-old and a 10-year-old, they should both get a flu vaccine. Or, if one child in your family has asthma, everyone in your house should get a flu vaccine. The child with asthma is in a high-risk group, and everyone else is a household contact.

Remember that even if your child is not in a high-risk group, he can still get a flu vaccine if you want to simply reduce his risk of getting the flu this year.

Other Vaccination Recommendations

  • Just to repeat the big change this year: No Flumist this season.
  • People should not get a flu vaccine if they have a severe allergy to chicken eggs; have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination in the past; have developed Guillain-Barre syndrome within 6 weeks of getting an influenza vaccine; if they are less than 6 months old; or if they have a moderate or severe illness with a fever.

One thing to keep in mind is that although thimerosal has been removed from all routinely recommended childhood vaccines, some flu vaccines do still contain thimerosal. This is not necessarily a reason to not get your child immunized, though, especially if he is in a high-risk group. A thimerosal-free flu vaccine has been available for many years and it has been the predominant version we have used in the office.  According to the CDC, 'the benefit of influenza vaccine with reduced or standard thimerosal content outweighs the theoretical risk, if any, from thimerosal.'

Prevention & Control of Influenza - Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR. July 13, 2007 / 56(RR06);1-54.

updated 9-2-16