Flu Vaccine Primer

By: Heather Davies, MD
The Flu Vaccine Clinic is open for business here at Potomac Pediatrics! You can walk-in Tuesday-Thursday 8:30am-4:30pm to receive your immunization. Before you come in read below for the answers to frequently asked questions about the flu vaccine.
Who should get the flu vaccine?
-Influenza vaccine is recommended for all people greater than or equal to 6 months without contraindications to getting the vaccine.
What are the contraindications?
-People who have had a severe allergic reaction after a previous dose of flu vaccine or who have severe allergic reactions to any component of the vaccine. A precaution to receiving the vaccine would be people currently with a moderate to severe illness with or without fever or Guillain-Barre syndrome within 6 weeks of receipt of influenza vaccine.
-Children with an egg allergy with maximum symptoms of hives may receive the flu vaccine in our office. Children with more severe reactions to egg (swelling of lips, difficulty breathing, recurrent vomiting, etc.) may still receive the flu vaccine but we often request that if it is their FIRST dose of Flu vaccine, that it be given in the allergist’s office. If a child with a more severe egg allergy previously tolerated a flu vaccine, we will give the flu vaccine in our office. Egg allergic patients DO NOT need to be observed for 30 minutes after receiving the flu vaccine in the office any more.
Is it too early to get the flu vaccine?
-The recommendation is that people who are candidates to get the influenza vaccine receive the vaccine yearly as soon as it is available. Most healthy individuals and young people will mount a great immune response and can actually maintain antibodies for up to a few years after receiving a flu vaccine.  
-The elderly population usually lose their antibodies to flu within 4-6 months after vaccination (this is why there are new “higher dose” flu vaccines and recombinant vaccines for older individuals).
– If you wait to get the flu vaccine you may forget to come and get it once things get busy or your child may get an illness in the meantime that prevents them from receiving their flu vaccine at their next visit.
If young, healthy people have immunity for up to a few years after immunization, why do we need to get the flu vaccine every year?
-Every year the strains of influenza virus covered by the vaccine change depending on the best guess of which will most likely cause disease that year. Just because you received the flu vaccine one year does not mean that you are covered for flu the next year.
Does my child need a second booster dose of flu vaccine?
-Children between the ages of 6 months and 8 yrs who have not previously had 2 (or more) doses of flu vaccine prior to July 2017 (it no longer has to be 2 doses within one flu season) will need to return >/= 4 wks after their first flu vaccine dose for their booster – so the sooner they receive their first dose, the better!  And remember, it takes 2 weeks to build up antibodies to the vaccine so we want patients vaccinated BEFORE flu actually hits.
Can pregnant women receive the flu vaccine?
-YES! Influenza vaccine can and should be administered ANYTIME during pregnancy (no longer just for pregnant women past their first trimester).
Is the nasal mist (Flumist) available instead of the shot?
-While it is actually available again this year, LAIV4 (Flumist) is not recommended for use in ANY population during the 2017-2018 season (due to previous ineffectiveness against preventing influenza disease).
Can you get other vaccines at the same time as your flu vaccine?
-Yes, you may get any other vaccine at the SAME time as the influenza vaccine.  However, it should be noted that if you received a live vaccine (MMR, Varivax, Rotavirus- but this one really shouldn’t apply due to age constraints) before getting your flu shot, you should ideally wait 4 weeks after the live vaccine to receive your flu vaccine to make sure you mount an immune response to the flu vaccine.