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Flu Shots for Infants and Rationing Flu Shots

Question of the Week


Updated December 08, 2008

Q. I have an 11 month old, healthy daughter. My wife and I are confused as to whether or not we should bring our baby in for a flu vaccination this season.

My wife is a stay-at-home mom taking care of both my daughter and a 6 year old son.

I have researched and read numerous articles, including yours, about flu vaccination and kids and everything seems to state that babies are in a priority group for flu vaccination. Could you please help clarify a bit as to whether age, weight, or health of a baby has any affect to our baby being in a priority group to get a flu shot? How are these variables accounted for and factored into the decision on whether or not we should bring our daughter in for a flu vaccination? LT, Los Angeles, CA

A. The guidelines are clear-cut -- infants and children between the ages of 6 to 59 months are at high risk for complications from the flu, they are in a group that is most likely to be hospitalized if they get sick with the flu, and they should get a flu vaccine each year.

This is for all children in this age group, whether they are perfectly healthy or already have developed a chronic illness, like asthma or diabetes.

So none of the 'variables' you mention, like being healthy and not going to daycare, are discussed in any of the formal recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on who should get a flu shot.

It is easy to understand why parents are still sometimes confused by recommendations on who should get a flu shot though. The recommendations do seem to change from year to year, mostly to include more children. In fact, for the 2008-2009 flu season, it is recommended that all children between the ages of 6 months to 18 years get a flu vaccine.

Since your infant stays at home and is healthy, she may be less likely to get the flu or have complications from the flu, as compared to an infant who is in daycare or who has a chronic illness, but infants at this age are still at increased risk.

Also consider that if your 6 year old is in school, he could catch the flu at school and bring it home. Or you could be exposed to the flu if you take the kids to the park, mall, or to visit other family members.

Rationing Flu Shots

Because of the flu shortages we have seen in recent years, not all children have always been able to get a flu shot when they should have. In these cases, pediatricians and health clinics do sometimes have to ration flu shots to high risk children. Like children with asthma, diabetes, and immune system problems, younger children between the ages of 6 to 59 months are considered to be in a high risk group that should get a flu vaccination.

In some cases an individual pediatrician or clinic could have limited supply of flu shots and may decide to ration their doses and only give them to those that they think are most at risk.

In those situations, you might try to find a flu shot somewhere besides your own pediatrician's office.

Updated for the 2008-2009 Flu Season


MMWR. July 17, 2008 / 57(Early Release), 1-60. Prevention and Control of Influenza. Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2008.

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