Friday, August 21, 2015

Flu Vaccine 2015/16

Everything you need to know about the Flu Vaccine for the upcoming 2015/16 season:

It is recommended that all children over the age of 6 months get the flu protection. If you have an infant under 6 months of age, please consider getting the flu shot for yourselves and any of the baby's close contacts.

All children under the age of nine, who are getting the flu vaccine for the very first time should receive two doses of the vaccine in order to be considered fully protected. The two doses need to be separated by at least four weeks. If they have ever had more than two previous doses of any flu vaccine, they only need one this year.

Children under the age of three get half of the adult dose.

Children over the age of two have the option of getting the shot or the nasal flu mist. This is a live version of the flu vaccine. Last year, studies suggested that the mist might be the more effective treatment for children between 2-9. That changed this year and there is no preference or thought that one method might be more effective than the other.
(Keep in mind that most two year olds do NOT like having something squirted in their nose; sometimes you are better off with the shot.)
Every year the disease trackers do the best they can to predict which strains of the virus will circulate and try to match the flu vaccine to the anticipated strain. Some years have better matches than others. Last year, based on what I saw in our office, they seemed to match the B strain fairly well, but missed with the A. Getting the shot was still absolutely the right choice. While some of my vaccinated patients did end up with mild to moderate cases of type A, no one who was vaccinated ended up with the circulating B strain. The folks who tested positive for the B strain were a pretty miserable group.

Usually the vaccine differs from year to year. Last season was unusual in that  the formulation was unchanged. This year the vaccine does have some new components.
Our office will again be supplied with the quadrivalent vaccine that covers two A strains and two B strains. All of the Flu vaccine in our office is preservative free. For any of you interested, the strains  in the quadrivalent vaccine are:

A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus;

A/Switzerland/9715293/2013 (H3N2)-like virus;

B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus. (Our wonderful vaccine rep was a little reluctant to read this one out loud)

B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus

We don’t carry the trivalent in our office. The trivalent covers only only 1 of the B strains.
Try to get the quadrivalent if you have an option. You never know if that extra B strain is going to be an important player or not.
Last season the flu wasn't too much of an issue for our patients. Plenty of people did get the flu and had a miserable week, but no one in our practice had any severe complications.

Since we never really know when the flu season will start with a vengeance, getting your child vaccinated early in the season is your best bet. As soon as they turn 6 months old we can get them started with their first dose. Because we don’t have experience with this particular flu vaccine, I don’t have a sense of what kinds of reactions to expect. We don’t generally see any major reactions to the shot or mist, but every year it is different. Last year some of our patients did seem to have low grade fevers for a day or two, but for the most part the vaccine was tolerated very well. If your child has a sensitivity to egg, it is okay to give the shot, but we want to be cautious. I would recommend that you keep the patient hanging around the office for at least half an hour or so to make sure they aren’t having any issues. Please advice the nursing staff if you have any concerns.
I have been giving flu shots for almost 30 years and in that time I have only seen ONE patient with an allergic reaction to the vaccine (and that patient has no history of egg intolerance, so you just never know.) This patient left the office and started complaining about an itchy feeling throat. Mom brought him right back in and he got a dose of epinephrine. I am sharing that as a reminder that it is important to keep a close eye on your child for at least 30 minutes after the shot. If they seem to be having any breathing issues or exceptional fussiness they should get checked out immediately.

Last season, after frustrating delays early in the season obtaining the flu shots, we did ultimately end up with adequate supplies. I anticipate that we again will have plenty of vaccine available for our patients but there are never absolute guarantees. It currently looks like we will be getting some early shipments of the flu shots in mid August/September. I am hearing that the mist might be delayed until mid October. Once mid October comes around we will try to schedule a few Saturday morning flu vaccine clinics for the Noe Valley Pediatrics patients and families.
I will update vaccine supply and any info about the clinic dates in my weekly emails and also on our Facebook page. I will also let you know what type of reactions I am seeing, and what the actual flu looks like when it starts knocking on the door this season.

Click below for the 2015 Flu Vaccine information statements from the CDC (mist)

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