Immunization Month: Flu Season and the Vaccine

It’s that time again…flu season is right around the corner. And while we should all protect ourselves from getting the flu, we should especially ensure that our youngest children are protected. It is estimated that each year more than 20,000 children under 5 years old are hospitalized from the flu. To help protect their health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all children older than 6 months old get vaccinated starting in September, or as soon as the vaccine is available.

Flu vaccines can change year to year to combat the new strains, so it is important to be sure children are getting the correct vaccine. If a child 6 months to 9-years-old is getting the vaccine for the first time, the vaccines should be spread out into two doses, with the second coming no less than 28 days after the first dose.

There are two kinds of flu vaccines. Flu shots, which are given with a needle in the arm, are available for any child over 6 months of age. Healthy children older than 2 years of age may also receive the nasal spray, which is also known as live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV). Both are safe and very effective in protecting against the flu.

It is also recommended that care givers of young children take good care of themselves so as not to transmit the virus on to the children. Since babies younger than 6 months old cannot receive the vaccine, it is especially important for caregivers of these young infants to be vigilant. The CDC gives the following recommendations for caregivers:

  1. Take time to get a vaccine
  2. Take everyday preventive steps like regulary washing your hands or covering your mouth when you sneeze
  3. Take antiviral drugs if your doctor says you need them

The flu vaccine is available at your private doctor’s office, community health centers, pharmacies, and your local health department. Some children may receive free vaccines through the Vaccines for Children program at their regular provider office. Click here to find free or low-cost immunizations or dial (888) FIRST5LA.

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