Updated flu vaccine recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stress the importance of getting a new flu shot this season - even for children who received one last year.
The 2011-2012 flu vaccine protects against the same three influenza strains as last year's vaccine. But because a person's immunity drops by as much as 50 percent 6-12 months after vaccination, it's important to receive another dose this year to maintain optimal protection. This is only the fourth time in the past 25 years that the composition of the trivalent seasonal influenza vaccine has remained the same for a second year.
The AAP guidelines are included in the policy statement, "Recommendations for Prevention and Control of Influenza in Children, 2011-2012," published in the October 2011 print issue of Pediatrics (published online September 1).
The AAP recommends everyone 6 months or older receive influenza vaccine. Special efforts should be made to immunize all family members, household contacts, and out-of-home care providers of children who are younger than 5 years; children with high-risk conditions (e.g., asthma, diabetes, or neurologic disorders); health care personnel; and all women who are pregnant, considering pregnancy, or breastfeeding during the flu season. These groups are most vulnerable to influenza-related complications.
Most children with a history of mild egg allergy (i.e., hives) can safely receive the influenza vaccine without needing an allergy consultation, but parents should consult an allergist before administering flu vaccine to children with a history of severe egg allergy (i.e., cardiovascular changes, respiratory or gastrointestinal tract symptoms or the required use of epinephrine).
This year's policy contains a simplified dosing algorithm for administering the influenza vaccine to children depending on the child's vaccine history and age at the time of the first administered dose:
- Infants younger than 6 months are too young to be immunized.
- Children 9 years of age and older need only 1 dose of influenza vaccine.
- Children 6 months through 8 years of age need only 1 dose of the 2011-2012 influenza vaccine if they received at least 1 dose last season.
- Children 6 months through 8 years of age should receive 2 doses if they did not receive any vaccine last season. The second dose should be administered at least 4 weeks after the first.
- An intradermal vaccine has been recommended for people 18 through 64 years of age.