The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending all children six months and older get the flu vaccine as soon as possible, before the illness goes into circulation. The AAP made the advisory recommendation this week, as children go back to school.
The group of physicians recommends children receive either the trivalent vaccine that protects against three strains of the virus, or the new quadrivalent vaccine that protects against four strains.
Most children six months or older can receive the flu vaccine, but AAP says special effort should be made to vaccinate vulnerable children, including those with chronic health conditions, and those of American Indian or Alaskan Native heritage. Health care workers, pregnant women, women who may become pregnant or are breastfeeding, and caregivers of children in high-risk populations are also encouraged to get vaccinated.
Some children should not receive the flu vaccine. Those who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs, are younger than six months, have a fever or aren’t feeling well, or have a history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) should not get the flu shot.
New quadrivalent influenza vaccines for the 2013-2014 season contain the same three strains as the trivalent vaccine, plus an additional B strain. Although this may offer improved protection, the AAP does not give preference for one type of flu vaccine over another.
“Parents should not delay vaccinating their children to obtain a specific vaccine,” said pediatrician Henry Bernstein, D.O., FAAP, the lead author of the 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.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu season typically peaks in January and February in the U.S., but can begin as early as October and last through May. The CDC reports that 5 to 20 percent of the population gets the seasonal flu each year and that 200,000 are hospitalized because of it.