Our guest blogger is Georgina Peacock, MD, MPH, Medical Officer Senior Service Fellow with the Prevention Research Branch in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.
As parents, we are always on our guard. But if our little ones are living their lives, going to school or playing at the playground, insistence on hand washing and covering coughs may not be enough to protect them against the 2009 H1N1 flu virus. Children under six months are too young to receive the flu vaccine, and they are among the most vulnerable to developing serious complications from flu, including hospitalization and sometimes even death. And if your child has an underlying health condition like asthma, a neuro-developmental disorder or diabetes, you need to take extra precautions because they are also at high risk for complications. Vaccination against 2009 H1N1 is key to protecting them, and as a pediatrician, I urge families to make sure their children get vaccinated, and if they’re too young (under 6 months) – then vaccinate family members and caregivers to ‘cocoon’ them from the virus.
Here’s why: flu takes a big toll on children, especially young children. Each year in the United States, an average of 20,000 children younger than five years old are hospitalized, and around 100 children die because of complications from seasonal flu. With the spreading of the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that roughly 10,000 people may have already died from complications related to 2009 H1N1 – and many have been children and young people. Vaccination against 2009 H1N1 is recommended for all children, teens and young adults, ages 6 months to age 24 and is increasingly available through state health departments, pediatrician offices and health clinics.
And if you’re wondering about the safety of the vaccines, know that they are safe and cannot give your child the flu. Over the years, hundreds of millions of Americans have received seasonal flu vaccines and have an excellent safety record. So far, the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine has the same safety record as the seasonal flu – and it’s produced just like the seasonal flu vaccines that are made every year. The CDC and the FDA closely monitors all vaccines for safety and has done so for many years. For more information on the safety of the vaccine against 2009 H1N1, please visit the CDC’s vaccine safety page.
You may have heard last week that some batches of pediatric vaccine against 2009 H1N1 that were in pre-filled syringes have been recalled because their potency had decreased, something that is still being looked into. Please be assured that this is NOT a safety recall – and that if your child had received a dose from the recalled batch that they do not need another dose and that they are still protected. For more information about this, please visit CDC’s Q&A; page on the topic.
For the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine, all children under 10 should receive two doses to be fully protected. The second one should be given four weeks after the first dose.
It’s impossible to predict what will happen with the 2009 H1N1 virus and how long it will be around – so please don’t risk it. With most of the fatalities being children and young adults, we need to make sure we protect them. So keep informed, wash your hands often, cover your coughs and sneezes, keep sick children at home and vaccinate your family against 2009 H1N1.