Pediatricians Are Warning That Kids Need This Year's Flu Shot ASAP

girl getting vaccinated
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Last year, flu season ravaged much of the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) characterized it as the deadliest flu season for kids since the agency started tracking that information in 2004, with 180 children succumbing to the virus. Even though it seems like flu season just ended, it's already time to start taking precautions yet again. And this year, pediatricians are begging parents to get their kids vaccinated as early as they can.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a policy statement this week instructing parents to make sure every child who's 6 months or older gets a flu shot and gets it early in the season. Per the academy's recommendation, kids should be vaccinated before the end of October.

Dr. Flor M. Munoz, member of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases, explained the importance of immunizing kids early on in the season by saying, “The flu virus is common -- and unpredictable. It can cause serious complications even in healthy children. Being immunized reduces the risk of a child being hospitalized due to flu.”

According to the AAP report, 80 percent of children who died from the flu last year had not gotten a flu vaccine. This year, they recommend every kid get the shot. For kids who are still uncomfortable with the shot, a nasal spray is available for those older than 2, but the AAP cautions that the spray could be less effective.

"Since the nasal spray did not work as well against influenza A/H1N1 strain during the 2013-2014 and 2015-2016 flu seasons, it was not recommended in the U.S. for the past two flu seasons," the statement notes. "Vaccine effectiveness can vary from one flu season to the next. The effectiveness of the latest nasal spray vaccine for this upcoming season is more of an unknown against the influenza A/H1N1 strain."

Although it's impossible to make a flu vaccine that is 100 percent effective, getting the vaccine can significantly reduce the likelihood of getting the flu and it can make symptoms more mild for those who still contract the virus. This year's vaccine contains one new strain of Influenza A and one new strain of Influenza B.

"The effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies and is affected by factors such as the child's age, health status, vaccination history and the strain of influenza circulating in a community," said Dr. Henry Bernstein, a member of the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and an ex-officio member of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases. "We urge parents to talk with their pediatricians now to avoid any delay in getting their children vaccinated."

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