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  • Writer's pictureDr Nicole White

Should my child have the flu vaccination?

Yes! Read on to find out why....

Although the temperatures are still soaring in Brisbane, we are coming into the start of our winter cold and flu season and already we are seeing an increase in the number of children presenting with Upper Respiratory Tract Infections (URTI's or common colds.)

These illnesses are often relentless in winter - particularly for children in childcare where the germs are readily shared! It is quite normal for children in childcare to have up to 10-14 colds per year. The majority of these occur in the cooler months so it is not surprising that children are sick so often.

Common colds make children miserable, however, they are generally mild and self limiting and do not cause too many concerns. Influenza (The flu) however, is more serious, causing more severe symptoms and lasting longer. Having a flu vaccination each year can help to prevent the flu and reduce the severity of infection in those affected.

What are the chances of my child contracting Influenza?

In Queensland in 2017, there were over 50 000 cases of influenza - a quarter of these were in children. 2017 was the worst flu season since 2009. The main flu season generally begins around June and peaks in August.

Is the flu vaccination safe for children?

Yes. Flu vaccinations have been extensively tested and are approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for use in children.

Are there likely to be side effects?

Anyone who has a flu vaccination may develop mild side effects such as slight muscle aches, headache and a mild fever. These generally last only 24 hours and are far more mild than a true case of influenza. There is no live virus component to the flu vaccination so you cannot contract Influenza from having the vaccine.

Who can have the flu vaccine?

The influenza vaccination is available and safe to use in children over the age of 6 months. In 2018 the government will provide free flu vaccination to children aged from 6 months to 5 years. Older children can still have the vaccine at a small cost.

Others who are elligible for a government funded vaccine include:

  • pregnant women

  • adults over 65

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged under 5 years or over 15 years

  • those with chronic heart or lung disease

  • those with chronic illness - diabetes, renal failure, neurological conditions

  • those with reduced immunity

How many doses are required?

Children do not respond to vaccines as effectively as adults do so multiple doses of a vaccine are often required to ensure adequate protection. If your child is under 9 years of age and having their first Influenza vaccination, they will need 2 doses at least 1 month apart. If your child is over the age of 9 years or has had the flu vaccination before then only 1 dose is required each year.

When should my child have the flu vaccination?

The peak of the flu season generally occurs in August however an increase in cases is seen sometime between May and July. The flu vaccine becomes effective 2-3 weeks after administration and may start to reduce in effectiveness after 4 months. Flu vaccinations will be available in most surgeries from mid April so anytime from this point would be appropriate.

What now? Make a note in your diary to take your children to the GP after Easter to discuss influenza vaccine.


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