The AAP’s Committee on Infectious Diseases recommends that all patients aged 6 months and older receive an annual seasonal influenza vaccine by the end of October to ensure optimal protection during the 2017-2018 influenza season, according to an updated policy statement.
“Getting a flu shot as soon as the vaccine is available in your community should be on every parent’s checklist, along with other back-to-school routines,” Flor Munoz, MD, a member of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases, said in a press release. “We know that the flu should not be taken lightly. Everyone in the household, including pregnant women, grandparents and child care providers, should be vaccinated to help prevent its spread.”
The AAP’s Committee on Infectious Diseases has recommended that all patients aged 6 months and older receive an influenza vaccine by the end of October to ensure optimal protection during the 2017-2018 influenza season.
Last year, thousands of children were hospitalized as a result of severe illness or complications from influenza, with 104 documented pediatric deaths; the AAP noted that over 80% of children who die from influenza were not vaccinated.
For the 2017-2018 season, the AAP has recommended or updated the following:
- All children should be vaccinated against influenza by the end of October if possible; children aged 6 months through 8 years who were not previously fully vaccinated should receive the first of the two doses early in the season.
- In accordance with CDC recommendations, the AAP does not support the administration of the live-attenuated intranasal vaccine, which performed poorly against influenza A (H1N1) pdm09 viruses in recent seasons.
- All children aged 6 months and older with chronic conditions that may increase chances of influenza-related complications — including asthma, heart disease and diabetes — are urged to vaccinate.
- Due to increased risk of influenza complications, pregnant women, those considering pregnancy, those who have recently given birth or those who are breast-feeding during influenza season should be vaccinated against the virus.
- Those who work closely with children, including health care personnel as well as child care providers and staff, should receive annual vaccinations to prevent influenza-related complications among children in their care.
Two forms of the vaccine are available — trivalent or quadrivalent — which protect individuals against three strains (two A and one B) or four strains (two A and two B) of influenza. This year, the influenza A (H1N1) virus has been changed since the 2016-2017 season; however, the H3N2 strain and influenza B strains remain the same.
“Vaccination is the best available preventive measure we have against influenza,” co-author Henry Bernstein, DO, MHCM, from the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, said in the release. “Yet, there is a lot of room for improvement in influenza vaccination because overall vaccination rates have been suboptimal in both children and adults during the past seven seasons.”
The AAP noted that although antiviral medications — such as Tamiflu (oseltamivir, Roche), Relenza (zanamivir, GlaxoSmithKline) — are crucial for influenza control, these medications do not represent a suitable alternative for influenza vaccination. Additionally, the AAP emphasized that pediatricians are encouraged to quickly identify children suspected of influenza infection and begin antiviral treatment immediately to reduce morbidity and mortality.
“Clinical judgement is an important factor in treatment decisions for children who present with influenza-like illness,” Bernstein said. “The best results are seen when treatment is started within 48 hours of symptom onset. – by Katherine Bortz
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.