Will your pediatrician have flu shots?
Will you be able to get a flu shot at work or school?
Some parents remember that the shortages of flu shots a few years left them scrambling to find flu shots for their kids. And then, having to produce the 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine got in the way of making seasonal flu vaccine, and some parents had a hard time getting their kids a flu shot when they wanted to in 2010.
The last few years have been different though, with over 166 million doses of flu vaccine available in 2012 and several new flu vaccine manufacturers, everyone should have been able to get a flu vaccine if they wanted one.
2014 Flu Vaccines
This year, experts are again predicting a good supply of flu vaccines - up to 145 million doses, with the vast majority of those doses already distributed. And that is good news, especially since the latest flu vaccine recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) state that all persons 6 months and older should get a yearly flu shot.
Although kids used to start getting their flu shot in October or November, the CDC now advocates 'beginning use of seasonal vaccine as soon as available, including in September or earlier,' which means that most pediatricians have already started offering flu shots.
Flu Shot Shortages?
If your child does need a flu shot, your pediatrician is the best place to start looking, but if they aren't offering flu vaccine for some reason, you might check with your local health department, hospital, or pharmacies, and get one wherever you can.
Fortunately, no one is talking about seasonal flu shot shortages this year. In fact, many pediatricians started giving seasonal flu vaccines early this year, as soon as they got their shipments. The rush to get flu shots as people here about flu activity picking up this time of year often does lead to spot shortages though, especially for pediatricians who have already used up their flu vaccine supply.
Remember that with the latest recommendations, it is recommended that all children between the ages of 6 months and 18 years now get a seasonal flu vaccine each year.
Find a Flu Shot
In addition to your pediatrician, other places to look if you can't find a flu vaccine for your child might include:
- the American Lung Association web site ( www.lungusa.org ) and their online flu shot locator.
- Google Flu Vaccine Finder, find a flu shot near you by entering your city and state or zip code.
- your local or state health department (this is often your best bet to get a flu shot).
- flu shot clinics advertised at pharmacies (CVS and Walgreens, etc), grocery stores (Kroger, Tom Thumb, etc.), community centers, churches, office parks, shopping malls, schools, etc.
Keep in mind that many places that offer flu shots outside a doctor's office may not give them to young children, especially if they are under four years old, so call ahead. Or see if they will give your younger child a flu shot if you have a prescription from your pediatrician.
FluMist, the nasal spray flu vaccine will again be in good supply this year, and may be a good option for healthy people from the ages of 2 to 49 years. And because they have lowered the price to make it more competitive with flu shots, it may be a more economical option too. Plus, FluMist is an especially good option for healthy people aged 2 to 49 years who are caregivers or household contacts of infants less than 6 months old and most health care workers, as long as they don't care for severely immuno-compromised patients.
Problems Finding Flu Shots
The bottom line right now is that there shouldn't be any shortages this year, but in case there are some flu shot delays, which seem to come up from time to time, if you have an opportunity to get a flu shot for your high-risk child, take it. You might not get another chance if problems do develop. Also, since children under age 9 years who are getting a flu vaccine for the first time need two doses, it may be a good idea to get a seasonal flu vaccine as early as possible, so that they are fully protected before flu season starts.
Free Flu Shots
While flu shots aren't as expensive as some other childhood vaccines, they aren't necessarily cheap either. Fortunately, the 2014 flu vaccine is covered by Medicaid and most insurance plans that cover other childhood immunizations.
For those families that need help getting a flu vaccine for their kids, some sources of free flu shots to consider might include:
- your local health department
- a pediatrician that participates in the Vaccines for Children program
- a church sponsored flu clinic
- a school based flu clinic
Influenza Vaccine Availability Tracking System
In addition to the problems manufacturing the pediatric flu shot a few years ago, as in past years, there was a problem with distributing flu shots to doctors. This is why you see some pediatricians with plenty of flu shots for all of their patients and other offices with a limited supply. Or some pediatricians with no flu shots, but a grocery store down the road having daily flu clinics for whoever wants one.
Hopefully the addition of more flu shot manufacturers will help to resolve this problem in the future, but until then, the CDC and AMA have set up the Influenza Vaccine Availability Tracking System to try and match up doctors and flu shot distributors to help make sure all flu shots are used by the patients who need them. If your pediatrician doesn't have any flu shots, you might make them aware of this service and see if he can order some.
Updated for the 2013-2014 Flu Season.
For more information, please visit our guide to Kids and the Flu.
CDC. Prevention and Control of Influenza with Vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2012-13 Influenza Season. MMWR. August 17, 2012 / 61(32);613-618