By Bob LaMendola
Florida Department of Health in Broward County
As flu season approaches, parents can no longer rely on protecting their children with nasal spray vaccine that was popular among kids who hate shots.
Federal vaccine officials no longer recommend the spray because it doesn’t work. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says several new studies showed that spray vaccine did little or nothing to stop H1N1 flu virus that was the most prevalent last year.
Flu shots, however, were 63 percent successful for kids, and once again are the best option for everyone.
“We realize the change may raise questions for parents,” says Dr. Paula Thaqi, Director of the Florida Department of Health in Broward County. “We want to emphasize that in addition to hand-washing and staying home when you are sick, the best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated. Consult your doctor about which vaccine is right for you.”
The 2016-17 flu season kicked off in August when retail stores began vaccinating. The CDC says influenza annually causes hundreds of thousands of illnesses – sometimes severe – and leads to 3,000 to 49,000 deaths a year.
Flu cases typically peak in December through February, but can begin unpredictably early or late. The vaccine often takes two weeks to spark an immune response. The CDC encourages flu vaccine for everyone over age 6 months old, even healthy adults who can be carriers of flu virus.
Along with vaccine, simple precautions work well. Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds, avoid close contact with sick people, stay home if you are sick, and cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your elbow.
Vaccine advocates say many people treat flu too lightly and skip flu shots. Last year, just 59 percent of U.S. children and 42 percent of adults were vaccinated. Even among seniors over age 65, who are at higher risk from flu, only 65 percent were vaccinated.
Most versions of this year’s flu vaccine protect against four strains of flu – A-type H1N1 and H3N2 and two strains of B-type flu. If you can’t find the four-strain vaccine, the CDC recommends taking the three-strain vaccine rather than wait.
Some children ages 6 months to 8 year old may require two doses, at least four weeks apart. Ask your doctor for guidance.
It’s best to get vaccine from your own doctor, but if you cannot, find other sources at http://vaccine.healthmap.org. Vaccine should be plentiful. The CDC expects more than 157 million doses to be available.
More information: DOH-Broward at http://broward.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/clinical-and-nutrition-services/immunizations/index.html or 954-467-4705. DOH-Palm Beach at 561-625-5180 or http://palmbeach.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/clinical-and-nutrition-services/immunizations/index.html.