Q: Are there any reasons why a child who's old enough should not get the flu vaccine?
A: The main contraindication for the flu vaccine is a severe allergic reaction to anything that is in the flu vaccine. One possibility is egg [allergy], because all of the flu vaccines that are available in this country are manufactured through a process that uses chicken eggs, the vaccine is most likely going to have a very, very trace quantity of egg protein left in it.
The CDC has recommended that if a child's egg allergy is a mild one -- meaning the child only experiences hives as a reaction -- they may be given the flu vaccine with precautions: Things like being watched in the doctor’s office for 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine administration to make sure they don't have a severe reaction. We recommend that they get the (injectable or killed) shot rather than the nasal spray because there's more published data about children with egg allergy for the shot.
For those who have a more severe egg allergy -- shortness of breath or any other symptom that may indicate something more serious -- we recommend that they consult with a specialist who's familiar with allergies before they receive the vaccine.
There are other things in the flu vaccine that people can potentially be allergic to, so a history of having had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine itself or any of its components would be a contraindication.
Q: How can parents protect babies younger than 6 months from the flu?
A: Since babies under 6 months can’t get a flu shot, it’s important to do everything you can to protect your child. The best way to protect those children is getting the flu vaccine yourself. The people who are in close contact with babies and take care of them should do their best not to get sick themselves, so they don’t spread the flu to the baby.
Q: Does a flu shot given to a pregnant woman protect the newborn baby later on?
A: There have been studies showing that newborns do have some protection from mothers' vaccinations.