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Facts about Flu Vaccinations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Please note this fact sheet includes information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We have summarized it to make it easier for you to reference.

The following information is helpful background for making decisions around flu vaccine.

This year, there are two types of flu vaccinations, one for the seasonal flu and one for H1N1. Both have been tested, and are safe and effective in children and adults. Both seasonal flu and H1N1 flu vaccines are available as an injection or as a nasal spray. It is important to understand the differences and who can have each type of vaccine.


Who should receive each type of vaccination?

Injection

The injection (shot) of both seasonal and H1N1 vaccines includes inactivated (killed) virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend the following for the injection type of seasonal flu vaccine:

  • All children, ages 6 months through 18 years of age 
  • Anyone older than 6 months with chronic health problems, such as asthma, sickle cell disease, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, other lung problems, and heart or kidney disease
  • Pregnant teens and women
  • People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications of the flu (including caregivers of children younger than 6 months)
  • Adults older than 50 years of age
  • Long-term care facility residents

The CDC issued the following guidelines for the injection type of H1N1 vaccine:

  • Anyone from 6 months through 24 years old
  • Anyone from 6 months through 64 years old with chronic health problems such as asthma, sickle cell disease, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, other lung problems, and heart or kidney disease
  • Pregnant teens and women
  • People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications of the flu (including caregivers of children younger than 6 months)

**These guidelines give high priority to children as they appear most likely to catch and spread the H1N1 flu. As more H1N1 vaccine becomes available, the CDC may recommend H1N1 vaccine for all otherwise healthy adults. 



Nasal spray

The nasal spray for each type of vaccine includes live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), or live but weakened flu virus. As a result, the CDC issued specific guidelines for nasal spray, or LAIV flu vaccines (both H1N1 and seasonal flu).

  • Nasal spray vaccines are not for anyone who is pregnant
  • Nasal spray vaccines are not for anyone with a chronic health problems such as asthma, sickle cell disease, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, other lung problems, and heart or kidney disease
  • The nasal spray can be used for:
    • Anyone who is otherwise healthy (with no special or chronic health conditions) from 2 years to 49 years old
    • People who are otherwise healthy (with no special or chronic health conditions) who live with or care for infants younger than 6 months old

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Are there any reasons why my child should NOT get either of these vaccinations?
Ask your doctor what he or she recommends. The CDC recommends that no one should get either form of flu vaccine if they have:

  • Severe allergies to eggs
  • Allergies to other substances in the vaccines
  • Guillain Barre syndrome (a severe illness also called GBS)


How many vaccine doses will my child need this year?

The CDC notes that different doses of flu vaccine are needed for children of different ages and weights. To be sure about what your child needs, be sure to ask your doctor. The following are general guidelines that may help you talk with your doctor about what your child needs.

Seasonal flu vaccine (both nasal spray (LAIV) and injection):

  • If your child is younger than 9 years old and has never had a seasonal flu vaccine before, they will need two doses of seasonal flu vaccine about four weeks apart, for maximum effectiveness.
  • If your child has had a seasonal flu vaccine before, they will only need one dose of seasonal flu vaccine.

H1N1 flu vaccine (both nasal spray (LAIV) and injection):

  • All children younger than 10 years old will need two doses of H1N1 vaccine, four weeks apart, since most children have not yet had a vaccination for H1N1.

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Can my child get both the seasonal and H1N1 vaccination at the same time?
The CDC has issued guidelines about giving both seasonal and H1N1 flu vaccine at the same time. The following are general guidelines that may help you talk with your doctor about what your child needs.

It is safe to get both seasonal and H1N1 influenza vaccines at the same time, if they are delivered in the following ways:

  • Two injections (one seasonal flu shot and one H1N1 flu shot)
  • One shot and one nasal spray (LAIV) vaccine

*PLEASE NOTE: Two nasal spray (LAIV) vaccines cannot be given at the same time.

What are the risks of getting either vaccination?
The CDC has tested the vaccines and they are considered safe and effective. The CDC has noted these possible side effects:

  • Injection: If your child gets a shot, he or she may experience some soreness, swelling, or redness where the injection was given. 
  • For either nasal spray (LAIV) or injection: A few individuals develop headache, muscle aches or fever after any flu vaccine. This reaction is part of the body’s immune response and is typically much milder than the actual seasonal or H1N1 flu illness.



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Are there any warning signs I should watch for once my child has a vaccination?
The CDC has tested the vaccines and they are considered safe and effective. The CDC has noted these warning signs to watch for after someone has had a vaccination:

Signs of a rare, severe reaction to the vaccine include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • wheezing
  • a raised rash on the skin
  • paleness
  • weakness
  • fast heart beat
  • dizziness

**If your child has any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

When should my child get the vaccinations?
The CDC has given these guidelines about when a child should get these vaccines:

Seasonal flu
The seasonal vaccine works best when the body has two weeks to build immunity. To be ready for flu season, your child should get a flu vaccination (both doses, if needed) as soon as possible after it is made available to the public, usually in early fall.

H1N1
The H1N1 vaccine, both injection and the nasal spray (LAIV), have been tested and are released as they become available. The H1N1 vaccines work best when the body has two weeks to build immunity. Since H1N1 is already circulating in the general population, it is a good idea to get an H1N1 flu shot or nasal spray (LAIV) vaccine as soon as it is available from your doctor or health center. 


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How can I protect my child who is younger than six months – the youngest recommended age for vaccinations?
The CDC emphasizes that it is important for parents and family members to get both flu vaccines so they do not transmit the illness to their very young children. Children less than six months of age who catch the flu, either seasonal or H1N1, are at higher risk for serious flu illness.

Parents can also protect their children by keeping themselves healthy and following all the other prevention guidelines including:

  • keeping hands clean,
  • keeping surfaces around the home clean, and
  • avoiding people who may be sick.

Can my child get sick from the vaccination?
You can not catch the flu from any type of flu vaccination. However, you can catch the flu during the time your body is building immunity, just after you get a flu shot or nasal spray vaccination.

Remember that CDC guidelines recommend that children who are younger than 10 years old need two doses of H1N1 flu vaccine (spaced four weeks apart) to develop full protection. Children younger than 9 years who have never had seasonal flu vaccine need two doses of seasonal flu vaccine (also spaced four weeks apart).

Can my child still catch the flu, even if he or she has been vaccinated?
A small number of children and adults may still develop flu illness even though they have received all recommended flu vaccine doses. Typically, that illness is milder than a natural infection.

  • For more information from Children’s National Medical Center about the flu, basic prevention tips, and guidance for families with children who have specific chronic health problems, visit www.childrensnational.org/flu.
  • For information directly from the CDC about vaccinations, visit www.cdc.gov/H1N1flu

The health information presented in this fact sheet is intended for information purposes only and is not a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. If you have questions or concerns, please ask a trained healthcare provider.

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Related links

 Flu Resource Center 
 Season and H1N1 (Swine) Flu Referral Guidelines (PDF) **NEW** - 10/13/09
 
Talking with Children about Flu **NEW** - 10/08/09  
 Flu Check List for Parents and Caregivers (PDF) **New** - 10/06/09
 Seasonal Flu and H1N1 (Swine) Flu Information for Parents **NEW**- 10/05/09
Centers for Disease Center - 2009 H1N1 Flu/ Swine Flu information
Helping kids cope with being in the hospital
Helping Siblings Cope with a Brother’s or Sister’s Hospitalization
 Article: Pediatrics: Kids need specialized care in hospital emergency departments (September 2009)
 Article:Volunteers Wanted to Test Swine Flu Vaccine (ABC News, July 22, 2009)
 Article: All Hands on Deck For Anticipated Swine Flu Surge (ABC News, July 23, 2009)
 Article: Children’s Chief Medical Officer discusses H1N1 planning on World News with Charles Gibson
 Thank you to our friends in the community for sharing this resource 


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