Who Should Get a Flu Shot
All children between the ages of 6 months and 18 years should get a flu vaccine each year, and that is especially important for high-risk groups, including:
- children age 6 to 59 months
- pregnant women and women who will be pregnant during flu season (usually October to March)
- adults age 50 years and older
- children and adults with most chronic health conditions, including asthma, diabetes, neurological and neuromuscular disorders (cerebral palsy, seizures, muscular dystrophy, etc.), and immune system problems
- children and teens who are taking aspirin because of the risk of Reye syndrome
- residents of long-term care facilities
- household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children younger than 6 months, or in other high-risk groups above
- healthcare personnel who provide direct patient care
Keep in mind that the 'household contacts' part places a lot of extra kids into a high-risk group who should get a flu vaccine. For example, if you have a 3-year-old and a 10-year-old, they should both get a flu vaccine. Or, if one child in your family has asthma, everyone in your house should get a flu vaccine. The child with asthma is in a high-risk group, and everyone else is a household contact.
Remember that even if your child is not in a high-risk group, he can still get a flu vaccine if you want to simply reduce his risk of getting the flu this year.
And with the latest flu shot recommendations, experts now advise flu vaccines for everyone, including healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 49, so basically everyone over the age of 6 months should get a flu vaccine each year.
Other Vaccination Recommendations
- Healthy people who are 2 to 49 years of age and not pregnant -- including health-care workers (except those who care for severely immunocompromised patients in special care units and persons caring for children younger than 6 months) -- can be vaccinated with Flumist, the nasal spray flu vaccine.
- People should not get a flu vaccine if they have a severe allergy to chicken eggs; have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination in the past; have developed Guillain-Barre syndrome within 6 weeks of getting an influenza vaccine; if they are less than 6 months old; or if they have a moderate or severe illness with a fever.
One thing to keep in mind is that although thimerosal has been removed from all routinely recommended childhood vaccines, multi-dose vials of the flu vaccine does still contain thimerosal. This is not necessarily a reason to not get your child immunized, though, especially if he is in a high-risk group. A thimerosal-free flu vaccine is available for the 2010-2011 influenza season, but your pediatrician may not have it because of cost and supply issues. According to the CDC, 'the benefit of influenza vaccine with reduced or standard thimerosal content outweighs the theoretical risk, if any, from thimerosal.'
Updated for the 2010-2011 Flu Season.
For more information, please visit our guide to Kids and the Flu.
Prevention and Control of Influenza with Vaccines. Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2010. Early Release. July 29, 2010 / 59(Early Release);1-62