Flu Vaccine Needed to Protect Children Under Age Two

WASHINGTON -- The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reiterated the need for children ages six months to 23 months to get vaccinated with the flu vaccine in a written statement submitted for a U.S. House of Representatives hearing.

The flu kills, said AAP president Carden Johnston, MD. Last year, over 150 kids died. Immunizing children and their families is the best way to prevent disability and death.

Since young children are at such high risk of getting the flu, the AAP recommends the flu vaccine regardless of whether it contains thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative. In an effort to limit childhood exposure to mercury in all forms, thimerosal is no longer used as a preservative in vaccines recommended for infants younger than six months of age. All other vaccines recommended for pre-school aged children are now free of thimerosal, except the flu vaccine. Only a limited amount of thimerosal-free flu vaccine is available this year.

We recommend getting any approved flu vaccine that is available, said Johnston. The known complications of flu far outweigh any theoretical complications from the vaccine.

While the AAP remains committed to reducing all mercury exposure in children, including the air they breathe and food they eat, removing thimerosal from vaccines was a precautionary measure. There was never any evidence of harm. To date, there is no scientific proof that mercury in vaccines caused autism despite years of study.

Prevention is better than treatment, and flu is no exception, Johnston said.

Below are some guidelines:

* Children ages six months to 23 months should get the flu vaccine.

* Children with chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes should also get the flu vaccine.

* While parents should schedule immunization appointments for their children this month, it is not too late to have children immunized in November, December and later.

* Parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, babysitters and daycare providers of young children or children with medical conditions should be vaccinated as well.

* Children younger than nine years of age who have not been vaccinated before with the flu vaccine will need two doses at least four weeks apart for the injectable vaccine, and six weeks apart for the nasally administered vaccine. The nasally administered vaccine is only for healthy children ages five and older.

* The flu vaccine is not licensed for infants younger than six months, so they are not to be vaccinated for the flu. However, the babys family and caregivers should be vaccinated to prevent any transmission of the flu to the infant.

Additional information about immunizations can be obtained at http://www.aap.org.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 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.

Source: The American Academy of Pediatrics