As flu season approaches, the
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urges annual flu vaccine to protect
children from this common and unpredictable virus, which can cause serious
health problems for otherwise healthy children. The AAP also reaffirms its
support for mandatory influenza vaccination for all health care workers
The updated recommendations from
the AAP are contained in two policy statements in the October 2015 Pediatrics.
The statements, “Recommendation for Prevention and Control of Influenza in Children, 2015-2016
” and “Influenza Immunization for All Health Care Personnel: Keep It Mandatory
,” will be published online Sept. 7.
“Flu vaccine is the best way we
have to protect children against this virus,” said Henry Bernstein, DO, MHCM,
FAAP, author of both policy statements. “The flu virus is unpredictable. We
cannot always anticipate how severely it will affect different groups of
people. Being immunized with the flu vaccine every year significantly reduces
the risk of your child being hospitalized due to flu, and it protects other
vulnerable members of your family and community.”
In previous years, an estimated 90
percent of pediatric deaths have occurred in unvaccinated children. During the
2014-2015 flu season, 145 children died from influenza-related illness, and
many of these children had no underlying medical condition.
“Parents must consider flu vaccine
an essential vaccine for their children,” said pediatrician Wendy Sue Swanson,
MD, MBE, FAAP, a spokesperson for the AAP. “Now is the time to call your
pediatrician and make an appointment, or find out when flu clinics start. Flu
vaccine is a critically important, every-year vaccine that can protect your
child from very serious illness and death due to a virus that is so often
common in our communities, and so common in childhood.”
The flu season may start early in
the fall or winter, have more than one disease peak and extend into late
spring, so the AAP urges parents to seek the earliest opportunity to have their
Two types of influenza vaccines are
available for children:
inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) is given by injection and is approved
for children 6 months of age and older. It is available as a trivalent
vaccine, which protects against three strains of the flu virus, and as a
quadrivalent vaccine, which protects against four strains.
available is the quadrivalent live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV),
which is given by intranasal spray and is approved for healthy patients 2
through 49 years of age.
“Parents should not delay
immunization in order to receive a specific vaccine,” Dr. Bernstein said. “It’s
more important to have children vaccinated as early as possible so they are
The AAP also recommends:
who is 6 months of age and older should receive annual influenza vaccine.
ages 6 months through 8 years need two doses this flu season, if they have
had less than 2 doses of flu vaccine before July 2015.
efforts should be made to vaccinate household contacts and out-of-home
caregivers of children with high-risk conditions, and all children under
the age of 5.
should not delay immunization in order to receive a specific vaccine
formulation. It is more important to be vaccinated at the earliest
women, who are at high risk of influenza complications, can safely receive
influenza vaccine at any time during pregnancy. This also provides
protection for their infants during their first 6 months of life.
influenza immunization programs for all health care personnel should be
In the 2013-14 influenza season, 75
percent of health care personnel were immunized against influenza. This
represents significant improvement compared to 2009 – before many health care
systems began making the vaccine mandatory for health care workers – but it
remains below the Healthy People 2020 objective of 90 percent coverage.
Voluntary immunization programs are less effective than mandated vaccination;
coverage among health care workers whose employers mandate the vaccine has
exceeded 94 percent.
Many people at high-risk of
influenza and its associated complications are in frequent, close contact with
health care workers because of their need to seek medical services, and
immunizing health care workers will reduce transmission of the virus to these
vulnerable patients, according to the AAP.
“Employees of health care
institutions have an ethical and professional obligation to act in the best
interest of their patients’ health,” Dr. Bernstein said. “For the prevention and
control of influenza, we must continue to put the health and safety of the
# # #
American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 64,000 primary
care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric
surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of
infants, children, adolescents and young adults. (www.aap.org