Get Everyone Vaccinated During the 2018-2019 Influenza Season
Each year, millions of children get sick with influenza (flu), which can result in hospitalization or death. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urge all children 6 months of age and older, their parents, and all child care providers to get a flu vaccine before the start of each flu season. See the AAP flu recommendations.
The AAP National Center on Early Childhood Health and Wellness developed a new 1 minute animated video that emphasizes the importance of everyone receiving a flu vaccination every year, focusing on child care professionals and the children in their care.
November is a critical time to double-check that all children and personnel are vaccinated before the holidays. Two children have already died this year from the flu. While the flu vaccine is not perfect, it is the best way to prevent flu infections. Vaccination of children can reduce the spread of flu in the community, prevent hospitalizations, and can even be life-saving. The AAP has answers to questions regarding which flu vaccine children should get this year.
Children, especially those in child care or school settings, are more likely to get sick with flu and spread it to others. Children at high risk for flu complications include those younger than 5 years and children of any age with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems. Yet, immunization rates among these children are lower than the general population.
As a child care provider, please do whatever you can to encourage vaccination among students and staff. You can help increase the vaccination rates of children at high risk by:
Talking with parents about the importance of flu vaccination and advising them to take their child to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The AAP developed a letter with flu information that can be customized by each center/program to share with parents.
Using a tracking procedure or system to double-check that everyone is vaccinated.
Working with colleagues to develop a written plan or identify strategies to combat flu
Explaining that infants younger than 6 months are too young to be vaccinated, so they need to be protected by vaccinating the people around them. This strategy is called "cocooning".
Reinforcing the need for pregnant women to get vaccinated. Flu vaccination is recommended for all pregnant women during any trimester, as well as women who are breastfeeding or who plan to become pregnant during the flu season. Besides protecting themselves, pregnant women pass their protection against the flu onto their newborns, who are then protected for the first several months of life.
As a caregiver of young children, you can help promote best practices by ensuring that your center or program reminds parents during the month that their baby turns 6 months old, they are now ready to receive their own flu vaccine!
Prevent the Spread of Germs
With flu activity increasing during the winter months, as it does every year, the challenge is to keep these flu germs from spreading. Staff members and children should be taught to cover their mouths and noses with a tissue when they cough or sneeze (and then put the tissue in the trash right away). Staff members and children should also be taught to cough or sneeze into their elbow/upper sleeve and to avoid covering the nose or mouth with bare hands.
Then, everyone should be encouraged to wash their hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Consider displaying educational materials in Head Start or early education and child care programs to encourage proper hand hygiene and cough/sneeze etiquette. "Everyday Preventive Actions that can Help Fight Germs, Like Flu", and "Teaching Children About the Flu" are examples of free materials available on the CDC Print Materials Web page.
Learn What's True About the Flu
A number of misconceptions about flu vaccines have emerged over the years, causing some people to avoid getting vaccinated. These range from questions about vaccine safety (whether the ingredients in the vaccine are safe) to concerns about vaccine effectiveness (whether the vaccine leads to good protection against the flu). The flu vaccine is safe and getting vaccinated is the most effective way to prevent the flu.
One widely held misconception is that a flu vaccine can cause the flu. In fact, flu vaccines cannot cause the flu because they do not contain an infectious virus; however, vaccines can cause mild side effects in some people (i.e., body aches, injection site soreness, low grade fever). It takes about 2 weeks after vaccination for protection to set in. So, it is possible to get influenza, or another virus that has similar symptoms, just after receiving a flu vaccine before the protection takes effect. See the CDC fact sheet "No More Excuses: You Need a Flu Vaccine" for more information.