The flu vaccine debate
As the weather turns cooler, it seems moms take on a new set of responsibilities: an expanded schedule for our kids, new menus featuring heartier meals, the impending holiday season and the challenge of keeping the family healthy. With the return of cold and flu season, the question of whether to vaccinate for influenza is once again a hot topic on the playground.
Hana Solomon, M.D., a board-certified pediatrician and author of Clearing The Air One Nose At A Time, Caring For Your Personal Filter, provides some personal and professional insight to help you make an educated decision this flu season.
Hot button issue
As with any topic related to vaccinations, some parents are concerned about the safety and necessity of the flu vaccine. Your decision to vaccinate your kids (and yourself) against the flu is bound to draw some criticism and support, no matter which choice you make. "In light of the number of vaccines the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, any parent should question the absolute need, the risks, the benefits of any concoction injected into your child's system," says Dr. Solomon.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that people six and older receive the vaccination, ideally before December. Each year, unique vaccines are created to combat the specific flu strains that will be prevalent, determined by extensive research by the World Health Organization. According to the CDC, vaccines available in the U.S. for the 2010-11 flu season will protect against 2009 H1N1 flu and two other influenza viruses -- an H3N2 virus and an influenza B virus.
When deciding whether to vaccinate, it makes sense to check out information on safety and efficacy. "The flu shot has been studied and, although I personally do not suggest that parents blindly accept vaccines, the flu shot has proven to be safe," says Dr. Solomon. "I vaccinated my own children and my grandchildren are vaccinated. That's how comfortable I am with it."
Of course, as a parent, you need to weigh the risks and benefits in order to make an educated decision. "The flu disease can be deadly for little ones and the vaccine has been proven in hundreds of thousands of patients over many studies and many years to be as 'harmful' as sterile saline, when injected," says Dr. Solomon.
Given the documented track record of the vaccine, this could be one of the safest options available to protect your family this flu season."Influenza can be a life threatening disease for young ones, immunocompromised, those with underlying conditions --like asthma and cystic fibrosis -- and the elderly," advises Dr. Solomon. "Additionally, unvaccinated folks contribute to spreading the disease." Even if you and your family are relatively healthy, take into consideration the people around you who may not be as healthy.
Of course, there are certain people who should avoid the flu vaccine including those who have had reactions in the past, those with severe egg allergies ("Not mild allergies," says Dr. Solomon) and those who have been advised to avoid it by their doctors.
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