Second Flu Shots for Kids

2015-16 Flu Season

A child gets the FluMist flu vaccine to help decrease his risk of getting the flu.
A child gets the FluMist flu vaccine to help decrease his risk of getting the flu. Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD

Many parents are getting used to the idea that kids sometimes need two flu shots.

Recommendations for Second Flu Shots

Since the 2006 flu season, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended that all children who are less than nine years old should get two doses of flu vaccine the first year that they are vaccinated against the flu. The second flu shot, a booster dose, improves the effectiveness of the flu vaccine in these children.

Many children also had to get a second dose of the 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine. It was advised that all children who are less than ten years, even if they had previously had two doses of a seasonal flu vaccine, get two doses of the 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine to get full protection. This was in addition to their seasonal flu vaccine, which could have meant that some kids needed to get four flu shots if they also needed to get a second seasonal flu shot.

During the 2011 flu season, things got a little more complicated, as they started to take vaccine strain changes into account. Now, if your child had only one dose of seasonal flu vaccine the previous year, instead of the recommended two doses, and it was the first year that they were vaccinated against the flu, then they could get away with just getting one dose this next year. In previous years, they would have to get two doses this year if they didn't get two doses the first year, but since the flu vaccine wasn't changed that year, they could get just one shot.

2015-16 Flu Season Recommendations for Second Flu Shots

The 2015-16 flu vaccine once again underwent a change in flu virus strains.

That means we are back to the requirement of two doses of flu vaccine during the first year that a child under age nine years is vaccinated. If your child got his first flu vaccine last year and received two doses, then he just needs the routine one dose this year.

However, if he was only able to get one dose last year, then he needs two doses this year.

If your child has had two or more doses of flu vaccine in the past, but just never had two in the same season, then he still just needs one dose this year.

More on Second Flu Shots

Other things to know about your child's second flu shot include that:

  • for healthy children who are at least two years old, the FluMist nasal spray flu vaccine can usually substitute for a flu shot
  • the booster dose of the flu vaccine should be at least four weeks (28 days) after the first dose
  • the booster dose does not have to be same type of flu vaccine as the first dose, so if your child got FluMist for the first dose, the second dose can be FluMist or a flu shot if FluMist isn't available
  • for those who need two flu shots, a single dose of flu vaccine may provide some protection against the flu

And remember that if your child is going to need two flu shots for maximum protection, be sure to get him the first shot as early as possible to make sure that you complete both doses well before the start of flu season.

Sources:

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

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