The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine.
The CDC states that children should be vaccinated every flu season for the best protection against flu. For children who will need two doses of flu vaccine, the first dose should be given as early in the season as possible. For other children, it is good practice to get them vaccinated soon after flu vaccine becomes available, ideally by October. However, getting vaccinated even later can be protective, as long as flu viruses are circulating.
While seasonal influenza outbreaks can happen as early as October, most of the time influenza activity peaks in January or later. Since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against influenza virus infection, it is best that people get vaccinated so they are protected before influenza begins spreading in their community.
The CDC warns that Influenza (“the flu”) is more dangerous than the common cold for children. Each year, many children get sick with seasonal influenza; some of those illnesses result in death.
- Children commonly need medical care because of influenza, especially before they turn 5 years old.
- Severe influenza complications are most common in children younger than 2 years old.
- Children with chronic health problems like asthma, diabetes and disorders of the brain or nervous system are at especially high risk of developing serious flu complications.
- Each year an average of 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized because of influenza complications.
- Flu seasons vary in severity, however some children die from flu each year. During the 2013-2014 influenza season, more than 100 flu-related pediatric deaths were reported..
The vaccination is especially important for certain people who are high risk or who are in close contact with high risk persons. This includes those at high risk for developing complications from the flu and adults who are close contacts of those children.
Starting in 2014-2015, CDC recommends use of the nasal spray vaccine (LAIV) for healthy* children 2 through 8 years of age, when it is immediately available and if the child has no contraindications or precautions to that vaccine. Recent studies suggest that the nasal spray flu vaccine may work better than the flu shot in younger children. However, if the nasal spray vaccine is not immediately available and the flu shot is, children 2 years through 8 years old should get the flu shot. Don’t delay vaccination to find the nasal spray flu vaccine. For more information about the new CDC recommendation, see Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine in Children 2 through 8 Years Old