3 big reasons kids need flu vaccinations

Getting vaccinated yourself and others in your household vaccinated can also help protect the kids in your life. Flu clinics administer flu vaccinations before and during flu season. (Jason DeCrow / AP Images for American Lung Association)

By Sari Harrar

The flu officially arrived in Pennsylvania last week when the first lab-confirmed cases of the 2012-13 influenza season turned up according to the state department of health. Delaware has had one confirmed case and flu activity in New Jersey is reported to be low despite the rising number of people in emergency rooms with flu-like symptoms. This raises an important question: Have your kids gotten their flu vaccines?

The most compelling reason to have children vaccinated comes from a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, that says 894 kids younger than 18 died from the flu or flu complications between the 2004-2005 and the 2011-2012 flu season. Lead researcher Karen Wong says that 60 percent of the deaths occurred in kids with underlying health conditions such as asthma, neurological disorders or genetic disorders. Forty percent of deaths were among otherwise healthy kids. Healthy kids died more quickly after catching the flu-- within 4 days of showing flu symptoms compared to seven days for kids with other health issues.

“The numbers demonstrate how important it is for all children, even children who are otherwise healthy, to get a flu vaccine every year,” Wong says, “and underscore why all children with severe illness should get treated early with influenza antiviral medications.”

The CDC recommends flu vaccines for most kids 6 months and older. One parent organization urging more flu protection is Families Fighting Flu, whose members include the parents and relatives of children who experienced serious medical complications or died from flu. The group offers these arguments in favor of signing your kid up for a flu shot or nasal-spray vaccine:

  • Children are 2-3 times more likely to develop influenza than adults because of their less-developed immune systems.
  • More than 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized due to the flu each year.
  • The flu kills nearly 100 American children under 5-years-old every year.

Flu shot options:

Injected vaccines: Approved for kids (and seniors) 6 months and older.

Nasal spray vaccine: Approved for kids and adults ages 2 through 49. It’s a great option if your kid loathes shots, but is not right for everyone. The nasal-spray vaccine should not be given to kids with asthma, reactive airway disease, heart disease, diabetes, liver disease and/or kidney disease, a weakened immune system or to kids who take aspirin, have had an episode of wheezing in the past year or who have a seizure disorder or cerebral palsy.

Getting vaccinated yourself and others in your household vaccinated can also help protect the kids in your life. Especially if you have an infant younger than 6 months old, who cannot be vaccinated. Flu shots are even recommended for pregnant women. “Pregnant women who get influenza vaccine pass their immunity to their babies in the form of flu antibodies. This protection lasts for several months after birth. Influenza protection was seen in newborns up to 4 months old. Babies born to women who were not vaccinated during pregnancy showed no antibody protection,” the CDC says.

You’ll find more details about flu shots for moms-to-be here.