Come with your vaccine questions

Board Certified Pediatrician
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Come with your vaccine questions

Let’s discuss the Flu vaccine. Shot, mist, one dose v. two, join in to get some clarity on this topic. I’ll be answering common questions about the vaccine, it’s risks and benefits as well as how to know when to suspect the flu in your child. Join the discussion to learn more!

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  1. How well does the flu vaccine really work? I see people spitting out stats left and right. Trust the CDC, don’t trust the CDC, flu kills XX people, the vaccine kills as many or more… What’s correct? And how do you weed through all the hype to get real, unbiased, well researched information? My husband and I get flu shots. Our kids get flu shots. But when I see the “scare tactics” on both sides, I wonder how anyone is supposed to make an informed decision.

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    1. I think this is a great question and really gets to the heart of the matter when it comes to vaccine hesitancy. Who do we trust? Where do we go for information? I have a few places I look both for data and for answers to questions I frequently get in my office. The first is the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is the educational standard for pediatricians. They post an annual influenza season guideline for doctors and families to follow that summarizes the prior year (with stats) and explains the current year’s recommendations. I also like the CDC’s web page which not only tracks influenza as it spreads through the country but then tally’s deaths and morbidity at the end of each flu season. Finally, I’m a big fan of CHOP’s Vaccine Education Center which discusses each vaccine individually, including ingredients and addresses just about every question I have as a parent or a physician.

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      1. Thank you for the references! I do trust my pediatrician, but I think it’s very important for parents to know what they are giving to their children.

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  2. I have a preschooler and a kindergartener. I would love to protect them from all the germs floating around their school. How do we know that the flu vaccine will cover what is going around this year? Will they get flu like symptoms after they get the vaccine? Could they go to school after the vaccine or will they not feel well? What is best for their ages – the shot or mist? Thank you!

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    1. Love these questions! First, we do not know that the annual vaccine will cover what is going around this year – which is probably the biggest frustration we have as doctors when recommending the flu shot. The flu vaccine is developed each year based on the most common types of flu found around the globe. The flu comes in many varieties and likes to mutate and change so a team of scientists use this data to make an educated guess as to which strains we are going to see in the US in any given year. Some years, it’s a great fit and has up to an 80% efficacy, some years, it’s far below that. Some years, like last year, the predominant strain we saw was different from any contained in the flu vaccine. The vaccine targets three or four strains, and more than one strain of the flu can be circulating, so it just depends on if there is a match or not. Nevertheless, we know that without the shot you have zero percent chance of immunity, so your odds are still best with the shot. Symptoms after shot or mist vary from nasal congestion (mist) to low grade fever and body aches (both) to nothing. It really depends on the person. No need to skip school after the vaccine. Over age 2 both kids can usually get the nasal mist but your pediatrician will make that final decision based on their medical history!
      Thanks!

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  3. Is there any reason to choose the flu shot over the Flumist for children?

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    1. In a child without a significant medical history, no. Flumist is a great option for kids over age 2 who are healthy! It works great and is one less needle poke!

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      1. Thanks, Dr. Sara! We’re opting for the kid-approved flumist this year.

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  4. When does flu season actually begin? For my one year old, should she be getting the flu vaccine ASAP or do I have some time? Should I anticipate any side effects from the shot? And should I make sure that adults who are around her often (ie grandparents, babysitters) get it as well? Thanks so much for taking the time to answer questions!!

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    1. Flu season begins in October and generally lasts through May with a peak in December and January (according to the Centers for Disease Control). We recommend kids and their caregivers be vaccinated by October or as soon as the vaccine is available in your area. Your one year old will be getting the shot (too young for the mist) and will receive two doses separated by a month if this is her first experience with the flu shot. The second booster dose increases her immune response and therefore increases her level of protection. Adults, even ones who have never before received the flu shot, only need one dose. Side effects are typically mild, or absent, but can include fever and muscle aches. If your child experiences side effects, I would encourage you to discuss them with her doctor. Thanks for the great questions! Hope this helps!

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  5. Does the flu shot or mist contain a live virus? What about mercury content in the flu shot or other vaccines? Also, I know there are chemicals in vaccines, but so many people praise “going natural” these days. Is there even a proven way to go more natural when it comes to preventing or treating the flu, or are chemicals just par for the course?

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    1. The mist is a live attenuated vaccine. So the live virus has it’s infectious part removed in the manufacturing process. This is why even thought it’s a “live” vaccine it cannot give you influenza. Neither the mist nor the vaccine contains mercury. As for avoiding any chemicals, hand washing and good hygiene when coughing or sneezing are the best ways to avoid flu exposure. The idea is to prevent the flu with the vaccine in order to decrease chance of severe disease and disease requiring use of antiviral medications, fever reducers, cough meds, etc. The Vaccine Education Center has a great page that reviews all the ingredients in vaccines as well as their amounts.http://www.chop.edu/centers-programs/vaccine-education-center/vaccine-ingredients#.ViblvOmFtUE
      And here’s a link to one of our articles on the same topic:http://www.bundoo.com/qotd/is-there-formaldehyde-in-vaccines/
      The other thing to remember is “natural” does not mean chemical free. Peanuts are perfectly natural yet their proteins can be deadly.

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  6. Is it safe for my Six month old

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    1. Yes! The influenza vaccine is recommended for infants aged six months and older. Your baby will receive two doses separated by one month to maximize immunity.

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  7. Thank you everyone for your thoughtful questions!

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