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Ouch! Time for another shot?

Filed under : Healthy Kids, family

By: Carolina Pichardo

Recently, New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announced that all children under the age of 5 who attend a licensed day care or preschool must receive the flu shot.

vaccines nyc

While some parents welcomed the news, others were less pleased.

Why is the administration mandating this new law, and why are many parents and several organizations protesting this requirement?

No fun is the flu

It starts with a bad fever, followed by pain in the joints and loss of appetite. As if that weren’t bad enough, the recovery from the flu, and how long it takes for the body to get back to normal, poses its own challenges.

And there is no denying that children are vulnerable.

Recent reports from the Center of Disease and Control (CDC) show that even children with no previous health problems are at high risk. From October 2004 to September 2012, approximately 830 kids died from flu-related complications, and most had not gotten a flu vaccine. It is in part why the CDC went on to recommend children as young as 6 months should get the vaccine each year to prevent the virus from spreading.

This, the CDC argued, was the best strategy.

But a vocal contingent of parents, however, disagrees. Many are opposed because they are wary of adding another vaccine to what they believe is a full load. Some disagree because of how the vaccine is produced, and others resist because they argue that there is still no guarantee those vaccinated will not get sick.


The first thing you need, always, as a parent, is to get informed. Don’t be swayed by hearsay or Internet-fueled theories. Get the facts. Give your doctor or another trusted, licensed medical professional a call and schedule a time to speak at length about your concerns and questions.

Here are some beginning notes, as provided by the CDC.

There are several flu vaccine options for the 2013-2014 flu season. Traditional flu vaccines made to protect against three different flu viruses (called “trivalent” vaccines) are available. In addition, this season, flu vaccines made to protect against four different flu viruses (called “quadrivalent” vaccines) also are available.

The trivalent flu vaccine protects against two influenza A viruses and an influenza B virus. The following trivalent flu vaccines are available:

  • Standard dose trivalent shots that are manufactured using virus grown in eggs. These are approved for people ages 6 months and older. There are different brands of this type of vaccine, and each is approved for different ages. However, there is a brand that is approved for children as young as 6 months old and up.
  • A standard dose trivalent shot containing virus grown in cell culture, which is approved for people 18 and older.
  • A standard dose trivalent shot that is egg-free, approved for people 18 through 49 years of age.
  • A high-dose trivalent shot, approved for people 65 and older.
  • A standard dose intradermal trivalent shot, which is injected into the skin instead of the muscle and uses a much smaller needle than the regular flu shot, approved for people 18 through 64 years of age.

The quadrivalent flu vaccine protects against two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses. The following quadrivalent flu vaccines are available:

  • A standard dose quadrivalent shot
  • A standard dose quadrivalent flu vaccine, given as a nasal spray, approved for healthy* people 2 through 49 years of age

(*”Healthy” indicates persons who do not have an underlying medical condition that predisposes them to influenza complications.)

CDC does not recommend one flu vaccine over the other, and the agency stresses that the important thing is to get a flu vaccine every year.

What now?

The flu shot has always been a highly debated health issue, and that is likely not to end any time soon. It is important to familiarize yourself with some of the positions presented by those who argue against the vaccine. Some popular arguments follow.

No guarantee of immunity. Since there are several viral variants going around, there’s still a chance your child could get the flu, though the CDC and the Department of Health state the chances are significantly reduced.

Already too many vaccines. Adding another vaccine to the list is challenging for some parents. However, talk to your doctors about how to best schedule your child’s vaccination schedule. Is it possible for you to postpone the other vaccines for another month or stagger them differently than they are presently scheduled? Discuss your options thoroughly with your doctor.

Mercury. According to the CDC, the level of thimerosal (the mercury-containing preservative) in vaccines should not be harmful to children, and its use is beneficial in warding off contamination. “Since seasonal influenza vaccine is produced in large quantities for annual immunization campaigns, some of the vaccine is produced in multi-dose vials, and contains thimerosal to safeguard against possible contamination of the vial once it is opened.”

Be smart

Get educated. The best decisions as to what you should do to optimize the health and well-being of your children are made when you engage actively in processing and deliberating on the information around you. Don’t tune out; start reading and writing. And ask questions.

Also, don’t take for granted some basic precautions that will help everyone to avoid being infected.

Make everyone wash their hands, eat well and rest.

What are your thoughts on the flu vaccine?

This articles first appeared in YUM’s Weekly Column for the Manhattan Times and Bronx Free Press.

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