Flu Season: How To Make a Strong Influenza Vaccine Recommendation
As we head into another flu season, we want to make sure you are prepared with the proper resources to talk to your families.
Please remember to let families know they can receive the flu vaccine for their children by making an appointment to see their pediatrician or while they are inpatient.
- The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get an influenza vaccine every year. The influenza vaccine has been shown to prevent millions of influenza illnesses, tens of thousands of hospitalizations, and thousands of deaths each year.
- Children 6 months-17 years old need an influenza vaccine.
- Millions of children get sick from seasonal influenza, thousands are hospitalized, and some children die from influenza each year.
- The influenza vaccine can be life-saving in children.
- Among reported pediatric deaths since 2004, about 80 percent of the deaths have occurred among children who were not fully vaccinated against influenza.
- Children ages 6 months to 5 years old – even those who are healthy – are at higher risk of developing serious influenza complications simply because of their age. Children of any age with certain long-term health problems, such as asthma, diabetes, or neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions, also are at higher risk for complications from influenza
Types of Flu Vaccines For Children
During the current flu season, the CDC recommends annual influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months and older with any licensed, age-appropriate flu vaccine.
- Injectable influenza vaccines (IIV4) are given as an injection (with a needle) and are approved for use in as young people 6 months old. (Indications vary by vaccine.)
- Live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV4) is given as a nasal spray and is approved for use in non-pregnant, healthy people ages 2 to 49 years old. However, there is a precaution against the use of nasal spray flu vaccine (LAIV) in people with certain underlying medical conditions. More information about the nasal spray flu vaccine can be found here.
Your child’s health care provider will know which vaccines are right for your child.
When to Vaccinate
The CDC recommends that influenza vaccination should be offered in September or October; however, vaccination should continue throughout influenza season as long as influenza viruses are circulating, even into January or later. Children and pregnant people in their third trimester can be vaccinated as soon as the influenza vaccine is available – even if this is in July or August. Adults, and especially those older than 65, should not be vaccinated early (in July or August) as immunity wanes more quickly in this age group.
Some children 6 months to 8 years of age require two doses of influenza vaccine. Children 6 months to 8 years old getting vaccinated for the first time, and those who have only previously received one dose of the vaccine, should get two doses of vaccine this season.
- The first dose should be given as soon as the vaccine becomes available.
- The second dose should be given at least 28 days after the first dose.
- The first dose “primes” the immune system; the second dose provides immune protection.
- Children who only get one dose but need two doses can have reduced or no protection from a single dose of flu vaccine.
- All children who have previously received two doses of vaccine (at any time) only need one dose of vaccine this season.
How to Make a Strong Influenza Vaccine Recommendation
Based on years of research into vaccine motivators, the CDC has developed a mnemonic device to help health care providers make strong vaccine recommendations. This method known as “SHARE” can help you to make a strong vaccine recommendation and provide important information to help patients make informed decisions about vaccinations.
S- SHARE why an influenza vaccine is right for the patient given their age, health status, lifestyle, occupation, or other risk factors.
“This vaccine can protect you and your family from getting sick from flu. By getting a flu vaccine today, you’ll be protecting yourself and the people around you, like your children and parents, who are more vulnerable to serious flu-illness.”
H- HIGHLIGHT positive experiences with influenza vaccines (personal or in your practice), as appropriate, to reinforce the benefits and strengthen confidence in influenza vaccination.
“In addition to recommending a yearly flu vaccine to my patients, I get one each year to protect myself and my family from flu.”
A- ADDRESS patients’ questions and any concerns about influenza vaccines, including side effects, safety, and vaccine effectiveness in plain and understandable language. Acknowledge that while people who get an influenza vaccine may still get sick, there are studies to show that their illness may be less severe.
“A flu vaccine cannot cause flu infection. The most common side effects of an influenza vaccine are mild, like redness, swelling, soreness, or low-grade fever for a flu shot. This should go away within a few days. Flu vaccines protect against flu illness but aren’t 100% effective, so even if you get vaccinated you might still become sick with flu. It’s important to get your flu vaccine because studies show that even if you do get sick, vaccination may make your flu illness less severe.”
R- REMIND patients that influenza vaccines help protect them and their loved ones from serious influenza illness and complications.
“Flu activity is going to start to pick up, and CDC says to expect more cases in the coming months. That is why I want to make sure I help protect you and your loved ones against flu and its potentially serious complications.”
E - EXPLAIN the potential costs of getting influenza, including potential serious health effects for the patient and time lost (such as missing work or family obligations), financial costs, and potentially spreading flu to more vulnerable family and friends.
“It’s important to vaccinate your children this season because flu vaccination can reduce potential flu illnesses, doctor visits, hospitalizations, and even death. Vaccination can also keep your children from missing school, and you from missing work due to flu, and can protect those around you who are more vulnerable to potentially serious flu complications.