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Topics > Healthy Outlook > Flu Vaccine Now Includes 6- to 18-Year-Olds

Flu Vaccine Now Includes 6- to 18-Year-Olds

Published by Contra Costa Times

Posted on Thur., November 20, 2008
By Erika Jenssen, MPH

IF A 9-YEAR-OLD girl caught the flu from a classmate, she would likely recover quickly and only miss a few days of school. But she could unknowingly pass the illness to her baby brother and elderly grandmother, who might become much sicker and end up in the hospital.

This scenario happens more often than it should: unvaccinated children get the flu and recover easily, but pass it on to their more vulnerable relatives, who don´t recover so easily.

That´s why this year, for the first time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children 6-18 years old receive the flu vaccine to protect them and their families.

Flu-infected people can be contagious and spread the illness to others up to 24 hours before they know they have the flu. The vaccine will prevent infection roughly 80 percent of the time. And, despite what you might have heard, the vaccine will not cause the flu.

In 2006, researchers reviewed the medical records of more than 45,000 children who received the flu vaccine early in the 2004-2005 flu season. They compared the health of these children following the vaccine with other periods in their lives.

The only difference they found between the post-vaccination and other time periods was that the vaccinated children had significantly fewer respiratory illnesses and ear infections in the six weeks following their vaccination.

There was no increase in flu-like symptoms among the vaccinated children in the period immediately after vaccination. So, the flu vaccine does not cause the flu.

The flu vaccine takes about two weeks to work, so it´s possible that one can get the flu before the vaccine takes effect.

  • The nasal spray, an alternative for those fearful of shots, is licensed by the FDA for nonpregnant healthy persons age 2-49.
  • Children younger than 9 years old who have never received a flu vaccination need two doses given at least four weeks apart.
  • Children 6 months to 5 years old and adults older than 50 should also receive an annual vaccination, because these groups are more likely than others to become very sick from the flu.

Complications of the flu carry quite a cost, both on people's health and the economy. An estimated 36,000 people die annually from the flu. The annual economic flu burden in the United States, including lost productivity and medical costs, is estimated to be $87.1 billion.

People with allergies to eggs should not get either the injected or the inhaled flu vaccines because they contain egg products. We especially encourage health care workers, teachers, pregnant women, and those who work with the elderly and young children to get vaccinated.

Both shots and nasal spray vaccines are widely available. Those concerned about the (unproven) connection between vaccine preservatives (Thimerosal) and autism should know that California law mandates that vaccines for children under 3 years old not contain that preservative. The nasal spray flu vaccine is also Thimerosal-free.

The Contra Costa Health Services flu hotline (925-313-6469) and the Web site ( have lists of free or low-cost flu clinics. There will be a free, drive-through flu shot and nasal spray clinic, available for anyone, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, in the J.C. Penney parking lot at the Hilltop Mall in Richmond.

Jenssen is the immunization coordinator for Contra Costa Health Services.

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