Should Children Get the Flu Shot?
If you’re a parent, you may be worried about your child catching the flu (influenza), or other illnesses, while they’re in school. This concern is not unwarranted; the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) found in 2018 that children are the most likely age group to get sick from the flu. As a virus, the flu has a history of causing drastic quantities of medical visits, hospitalizations, and deaths every year. However, there is one preventative action you can take to drastically reduce your child’s risk of getting the flu, and it’s fully backed by the CDC: get your child a flu vaccine.
Parents Who Want Healthy Schools Prefer Flu Shots [Infographic]
Flu Shot Statistics
In 1918, an influenza pandemic swept the world, infecting nearly 1/3 of the world’s population and killing an estimated 50 million people. This widespread pandemic sparked a drive for scientists and medical professionals to prevent another tragedy from the virus. Over the years, they worked to create a vaccination that could protect people from the strains of the flu they were experiencing, and in 1960, the U.S. Public Health Service began recommending annual vaccinations for people at high risk of serious flu complications.
As with the start of many attempts to protect the public from a virus, the results were not perfect; out of every 100,000 people in the U.S., 53.7 people died from influenza and pneumonia that year. If those death rates were reflected in 2018, when the U.S. population was 327.2 million, that would equate to 175,706 people dying – over half the population of Orlando, Florida.
Now, 53% of adults in the United States, aged 60 years and older, believe getting an annual flu shot is a key to maintaining good health. Those same U.S. citizens were children and young adults when the U.S. Public Health Service began recommending annual flu vaccinations. They have seen several strong strains of the flu sweep the nation, and have experienced first-hand just how well the flu shot can protect you from the virus.
The CDC estimates that between October 1, 2018, and April 20, 2019, there were:
- 36.9 million to 42.4 million flu illnesses
- 17 million to 19.9 million flu medical visits
- 518,000 to 630,000 flu hospitalizations
- 35,600 to 59,500 flu deaths
Flu Shots for Kids
The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older gets a seasonal flu vaccine each year by the end of October. Flu vaccination should continue throughout the entire flu season, even after January if viruses are still circulating.
Unfortunately, because the influenza virus is constantly evolving, getting the flu shot once is not enough to stay protected for several years or for life. It’s imperative that you and your child get the flu shot every year to be protected from the most recent strain of the virus.
Why Not to Give Your Child the Flu Shot
According to the CDC, the flu is even more dangerous for children than the common cold. In fact, every year the seasonal flu affects millions of children, hospitalizing thousands, and even killing some children. All children are at risk for complications from the flu, but children at a particularly high risk are:
- Under Age 5
- American Indian
- Alaskan Native
- Suffering from One or More Chronic Health Problem
If your child is under 6 months old, they are not old enough to be vaccinated. However, you can still protect them by making sure they are only around people who have been vaccinated, including other children.
Children under 5 years old with complications from the flu may experience:
- Negative Effects for Long-Term Medical Problems
- Brain Dysfunction
- Sinus Problems
- Ear Infections
If you choose not to give your child the flu shot, you are leaving them vulnerable to the increasingly high risk of catching the flu, suffering the symptoms, and possibly suffering from complications of the virus. An unvaccinated child is not healthier than one who is protected. Getting an annual flu shot will help protect your child from the flu by drastically reducing their risk of catching the flu, being hospitalized, and suffering the serious complications that many unvaccinated children succumb to.
Where to Get the Flu Shot for Kids
There are different vaccines for the flu that are approved for different age groups, so be aware that your personal flu shot provider may not be able to give your child a flu shot based on their age. Fortunately, as part of their effort to keep children at their best, healthy schools often provide flu shots to their students at the start of each flu season, when the latest vaccination has been released. Contact your child’s school to find out if this is something they offer. If your child’s school does not provide flu shots each year, their pediatrician may.
Keeping Children Healthy with Flu Shots
Every year, as it continues to evolve, the flu affects more living beings than just humans. Influenza strains can be passed to and from your pets, including beloved cats and dogs. As with human versions of the virus, animals can catch the flu through direct contact, through the air, and through contact with an infected surface. The best way to protect your family from the flu is to get an annual flu shot for yourself, your spouse, and your children.