Get Your Flu Shot Now, or Get the Flu Later

The 2011-2012 version of the flu shot is appearing in drugstores and doctor's offices now. And unless you want your kids to run the risk of hospitalization and even death this winter, get them in for their shot and get it over with.

I know that sounds like doom and gloom, and in fact your kids are not particularly likely to die from the flu. Child deaths range from as few as 45 per season to a peak of 345, which happened during the H1N1 pandemic of 2009. But when the stakes are that high and protecting you and your children is so simple, why wouldn't you do it?

And while death is a rare outcome, more than 20,000 children are hospitalized with the flu every year.


Getting the vaccine early rather than later makes sense, because peak months for flu season are November through April. Getting it as soon as you can means you're more likely to be fully protected when you are exposed to the flu. Children under 9 who are having the vaccine for the first time need two shots, 28 days apart; one won't protect as well from the illness and might not offer any immunity at all.

Certain groups of kids are at especially high risk for the flu:

  • Babies younger than 6 months of age: The vaccine is not approved for babies less than 6 months old, but children that age have the highest risk for flu complications. Parents, caregivers, and siblings of babies that young should get vaccinated.
  • Kids 6 months to 5 years: This group is the second most likely to need serious medical care if they get hit by the flu.
  • Kids with chronic health problems, such as asthma, diabetes, or kidney disease, or any other disorder that impacts lung function.

Some people should not get the vaccine: babies younger than 6 months, anyone with an egg allergy, and people with Guillain-Barré syndrome, which affects the nerves and immune system.

Some parents express concern over thimerosal in vaccines. While multi-dose vials do have it, single-dose vials do not, and neither does the nasal mist vaccine.

There are always stories floating around every winter of someone who got the flu from a flu shot, which is well-nigh impossible: Every batch of vaccines is checked to make sure there are no live virus cells. Most likely, that person was exposed before they got the shot so it was not able to protect them. Or they had a strong response to the vaccine, which made them experience some mild symptoms. Those last a few days, while the flu can lay you out for weeks. 

Really, there's no reason not to get your child vaccinated (that you wouldn't already know about). The sooner, the better!

Are you planning to get a flu shot this year?


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