Flu Shot Recommendations

2015-2016 Flu Season

pharmacist giving flu shot to little girl
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What is the age range for getting the flu shot? The expert recommendation is that everyone who is age 6 months or more, through old age, get a flu vaccine each year. You should get an influenza vaccine as soon as you can, before flu season begins.

Flu shot recommendations change over the years, so you may see some changes when you visit your doctor. The recommendations for the coming winter season are published in August of each year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Flu Shots - Latest Recommendations

Experts recommended that everyone who is at least six months old get a flu vaccine each year as soon as they can and before flu season begins.

One change for 2015-16 is that there is no preference for live attenuated influenza vaccine over inactivated influenza vaccine when either is available. 

Because the circulating flu virus strains in the flu vaccine didn't change over the past couple of years there was another change in recommendations. Although children who are younger than 9 years old (6 months through 8 years) still need two doses of the flu vaccine, if this is the first year that they are getting vaccinated, a new recommendation clarifies some situations when they might only need one dose, including:

  • children who received at least two doses oft trivalent or quadrivalent flu vaccine before July 1, 2015 need only one dose for 2015-16 season. These doses do not have to have been given during the same or consecutive seasons.

    Recommendations continue to be clarified rules for children with egg allergies. It is okay to get a flu shot if your child can eat lightly cooked eggs or only gets hives after eating eggs, although he should be observed for 30 minutes after getting his flu shot in case he does have an allergic reaction.

    You can see the latest recommendations on the CDC site: Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines

    Flu Shots - When Should You Get It?

    In past years, because of the shortages and delays, you didn't have much choice over when you could get your kids vaccinated. Most parents simply tried to get their kids vaccinated whenever they could.

    When there's a ready supply of flu vaccine, you'll want to get your child vaccinated before flu season starts or as early as possible during flu season. You could get your flu vaccine at any time, but the longer you wait, the greater the risk that your child will catch the flu before he is protected by his flu vaccine. Keep in mind that a typical flu season usually begins in December, peaks in February, and may continue until March.

    Pediatricians used to start giving flu vaccine, if they had it, by mid-October and would hopefully finish vaccinating the majority of their patients by December. The latest recommendations are that doctors start giving flu vaccine as soon as it is available.

    Flu Shots - Who Needs One?

    Remember, the latest recommendations are that everyone should get a flu vaccine.

    So clearly, all children between the ages of 6 months and 18 years should get a flu vaccine each year, but 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.

    Flu Shots - Other 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 2015-2016 influenza season, although according to the CDC, 'the benefit of influenza vaccine with reduced or standard thimerosal content outweighs the theoretical risk, if any, from thimerosal.'

    Flu Shot Recommendations Change Over the Years

    While we now have a universal flu vaccine recommendation, where everyone who is at least six months old is supposed to get a flu vaccine each year, just 11 years ago, in 2001, flu vaccines were only targeted to children and adults in high-risk groups. Continued changes to the flu vaccine recommendations have continued over the years, including:

    • encouraging vaccination of healthy children between the ages of 6 and 23 months when feasible for the 2002-03 flu season
    • that vaccination of healthy children between 6 and 23 months became a formal recommendation for the 2004-05 flu season
    • that vaccination of healthy children between 24 and 59 months became a formal recommendation for the 2006-07 flu season
    • that vaccination of healthy children between 5 and 18 years became a formal recommendation for the 2008-09 flu season
    • recommending universal flu vaccination for everyone who is at least 6 months old beginning with the 2010-11 flu season (adds people between the ages of 19 and 49 years)



    CDC. Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) — United States, 2015–16 Influenza Season. MMWR. August 7, 2015 / 64(30);818-825

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