You've already made the most important decision as a parent: you want to protect your son from seasonal influenza by immunizing him. Even though the flu vaccine's effectiveness against influenza infection varies from year to year, it clearly better than not being immunized and significantly decreases the risk of hospitalization and severe flu-related illnesses.
While a retail-based pharmacy that gives flu shots may seem like an attractive alternative for busy families, there are definite advantages to immunizing your son at his pediatrician's office. It may be more convenient than you think:
The pediatrician's office offers the full range of flu vaccines for children. While there are numerous different brands of influenza vaccine every year, there are specific brands available for children as young as 6 months.
The vaccine dose is different for children under 3 years old, compared to that of children older than 3 years
Pediatric offices are familiar with the recommendations for influenza vaccination in children and any available updates: for example, only the flu shot, given as an injection in the muscle, should be given to children this year. The nasal spray vaccine should not be used, and the intradermal vaccine given in the skin is not for children.
Some children 6 months to 8 years of age will need a second shot 4 weeks after the first dose, depending on if they had the flu vaccine in the past, how many doses they had, and when they received it. This decision requires a complete immunization record, something the pharmacy doesn't typically have unless you provide it to them for review. Getting the flu vaccine in the office also guarantees the child's health record is complete. Many times, no immunization record is provided to the child's family or pediatrician if the immunization is given outside of the pediatrician's office.
Immunization at your pediatrician's office is an also an opportunity to review your child's medical records to see if all his other immunizations are up-to-date. If needed, any additional vaccines can be given at the same appointment. Some of the most common ones for teenagers are the HPV and meningococcal vaccines.
The cost for your son to get his flu vaccine at the pediatrician's office should be the same or even less than at the pharmacy. Under new health care laws, there should be no insurance co-pay or deductible for the flu shot. If your son is under 18 and does not have health insurance, he can still be immunized at little or no cost to you through a government funded vaccine program called Vaccines for Children (VFC).
Many pediatric offices have additional appointment times in the fall, including weekends and evenings, to make it more convenient for families to have their children immunized. No waiting in long lines!
If you decide that having your son get his flu shot at the pharmacy is the best choice for him and your family, there are a few things that you will want to do:
Make sure the pharmacy has the right vaccine for your child's age. Pharmacies often receive their flu vaccine supplies earlier than pediatricians, but these are usually brands that can only be given to older children and adults.
Check and see if your child is old enough to get a flu shot at the pharmacy. Every state has different regulations regarding the patient's minimum age for immunization by a pharmacist.
Find out if the pharmacy will file an insurance claim for you. If you have to pay, make sure to ask for the total cost of the service in advance.
Make sure to get a copy of the vaccine record, including the date of immunization, vaccine brand, lot number, and the expiration date. Request that pharmacy send or fax a copy of this information to your son's pediatrician, as well as follow any local laws requiring them to submit this information to the local or state immunization registry system. Then again, you can go to your son's pediatrician's office, and they'll take care of all of the above for you.