8 reasons you may be planning to skip your child’s flu vaccine this year (and why you probably shouldn’t)
Only about half of the U.S. population will get a flu shot during the upcoming flu season despite overwhelming agreement among medical experts that every person over the age of six months should receive the vaccine every year.
Whether it is due to outright avoidance, simple forgetfulness or a lack of awareness, there’s likely to be a reason so many people forgo the flu vaccine. And while young children tend to get the vaccine more often than adults, it’s worth exploring some of the reasons that parents may hesitate to provide the flu shot and whether this choice is indeed in the best interest of a child’s health and wellbeing.
If you’re reluctant to schedule that appointment for your child’s flu shot, take a look at this list to see if your concerns are outlined here and let us help you figure out your next steps in making the best choice for your child’s health needs.
You may be considering skipping your child’s flu shot because you think:
The flu isn’t that serious.
This is a common misperception that people have about the flu virus. They think, “Well so-and-so had it and it was no big deal,” or “Everybody gets the flu once in a while,” but the truth is the flu can be serious and sometimes even life-threatening for small children (not to mention miserable). Young children as well as the elderly are more likely to need hospitalization when suffering from the flu and more commonly experience complications such as pneumonia that cause significant pain and suffering as well as a prolonged recovery time.
Children die of complications from the flu every single year. While it’s not very likely your child would be one of those, it’s also not worth the risk if it can be prevented.
The flu vaccine doesn’t work.
Often people think they’re just being practical when they decide it isn’t worth the time and effort to get a vaccine if they could end up getting the illness anyway. And the unfortunate truth is, the flu vaccine isn’t 100% effective. The flu vaccine is formulated with the strains of virus most likely to be circulating that season, but it is possible to become sick with a version of the virus that isn’t included in that year’s vaccine.
But let me ask you this, would you let your child ride in the car without a car seat or safety belt because you saw a newspaper article in which a child was injured in spite of those safety precautions? I wouldn’t. I know that there’s a possibility my child could still be injured in an accident even if we’re using safety constraints, but those safety constraints are the most effective means I have to protect my family. The same is true for a flu vaccine- it doesn’t work 100% of the time, but it’s the best protection I have to keep my kids safe from the flu.
My child’s healthy so I’m not worried about complications.
While children with chronic illnesses are at greater risk than others for complications, previously healthy children can also suffer very serious complications from the flu. Past health doesn’t protect you from this illness or its complications. The lives of previously healthy children are lost each year due to the flu virus, and the false comfort isn’t worth the risk.
A flu shot might overwhelm my child’s immune system.
Many parents who’ve been exposed to anti-vaccination misinformation often worry that the immune components included in a vaccine may be overwhelming for a child’s developing immune system, particularly if multiple vaccines are given at the same time. In fact, though, the immune components in a vaccine are remarkably small in number compared to the normal, everyday activities an immune system handles in a day.
Scientific evidence has shown that there is no reason to believe that vaccinations overload the immune system, and in fact there is a wealth of data proving that vaccines are safe and effective for young children. Vaccines are given to young children during the time periods in which they are likely to work the best and prevent the worst effects of disease, and the flu vaccine is no different. Young children are in much more danger of suffering from the effects of contracting the flu virus than they are from any side effect of a flu vaccine, and that is confirmed by scientific evidence. See more information here.
Will the vaccine cause autism?
Few questions in scientific study have been answered as thoroughly as this one. Vaccines don’t cause autism. While we are still learning about the complex array of factors that contribute to autism, the idea that vaccines play a role has been completely debunked. See more information here.
We got one last year (isn’t that good enough?).
While some vaccines are able to confer long-term or even lifetime immunity against a particular disease, we know that the immunity our bodies get from the flu vaccine declines over time. Furthermore, the flu virus is one that is constantly changing, so each year’s vaccine is specially formulated to include the strains of the virus most likely to be a problem for that particular year. For optimal protection against the flu, a vaccine is needed each and every flu season.
My child is allergic to eggs.
You may have heard (correctly) that flu vaccines are manufactured using egg proteins, and if your child is egg-allergic you may be hesitant to commit to the flu vaccine. (I’ve been there. I, too, have a child with a severe egg allergy).
However, this doesn’t mean you should dismiss the possibility of the flu vaccine. It means it’s worth having a conversation with your pediatrician. Although the manufacturing process for the flu vaccine uses egg proteins, there is minimal egg protein in the final product. Nearly all children with an egg allergy are able to safely receive the flu vaccine.
You can catch the flu from the vaccine
Depending on which type of vaccine you get, the flu virus is either weakened or killed. Regardless of the type of flu vaccine, the virus cannot give you the flu. Sometimes people get confused because they may experience some side effects of the vaccine (i.e. fever, aches) and think they have contracted the flu from the vaccine, but this is not the case.
Also, it’s important to remember that it takes about two weeks after receiving the vaccine for your body to gain full immunity. It’s possible that you could still get the flu in the two weeks’ time before the immunity has reached its peak. See more information here.
I hope that as we’ve worked through this list you’ve been able to see that although we each may have our own personal reservations, there are actually very few reasons that a child should not have a flu shot.
The flu is a real and serious threat to the health of our children, and the flu shot is our best defense against it. If you still have concerns about the flu vaccine, talk to your pediatrician, share your concerns and together figure out the next step that’s right for your child.