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Study: Flu Vaccine Looks Safe for Tots

No Rise in Risk of Serious Illness in Kids Age 6-23 Months
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 24, 2006 -- As flu season starts, there's new evidence that the flu vaccine is safe for children aged 6-23 months.

Children that age aren't more likely to see doctors for serious illnesses after getting flu vaccines, report researchers.

They included Simon Hambidge, MD, PhD, of Kaiser Permanente Colorado.

Data included more than 45,000 U.S. children 6-23 months old who got flu vaccines from 1991 to 2003.

At the time, the CDC recommended the flu vaccine for kids in that age group who were at high risk for flu complications, but the CDC didn't ban the vaccine for healthier kids of that age.

The CDC now recommends that all kids aged 6 months to 5 years get the flu vaccine.

Vaccine Study

A third of the kids in Hambidge's study were at high risk of flu complications. The rest were healthy children.

The researchers tracked the kids' medical visits for serious health problems up to 42 days after flu vaccination.

They found no spike in such doctor visits after flu vaccination, except for a slight rise in doctor visits for mild vomiting or diarrhea in the two weeks after vaccination.

The findings "add to prior evidence that influenza vaccine is safe" for kids in that age range, the researchers write.

They call for studies in kids 3-5 years old; the CDC now advises kids in that age group to get a flu vaccine.

Flu Vaccine 101

It's prime time for the flu vaccine, which is the single best way to protect against flu, according to the CDC.

Flu season can start as early as October. The best time to get vaccinated is October or November, but you can do it later, says the CDC.

The flu changes all the time; the flu vaccine changes yearly. So don't expect last year's vaccination to protect you this year.

The CDC recommends the vaccine for:

  • Children aged 6 months to 5 years
  • Pregnant women
  • People aged 50 and older
  • People with certain chronic medical conditions
  • People living in nursing homes or other long-term health care facilities
  • Health care workers
  • People who live with high-risk patients
  • People who live with or care for babies less than 6 months old

The flu vaccine isn't recommended for people with these traits:

  • Severe allergy to chicken eggs
  • Severe reaction to past flu vaccine
  • Development of Guillain-Barre syndrome (a paralyzing neurologic condition) within six weeks of a past flu vaccine

The flu vaccine isn't approved for babies who are less than 6 months old. People who have a moderate or severe illness with a fever should wait to get vaccinated until their symptoms lessen, notes the CDC.

Can't stand shots? If you're healthy, not pregnant, and 5-49 years old, you could get the vaccine in a nasal spray.

Unlike the flu vaccine shots, the nasal spray contains a live, weakened flu virus that doesn't cause the flu, says the CDC.

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