The Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) and the World Health Organization recommend annual influenza/flu vaccination for children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years.
Children are vulnerable to the flu throughout the year, and more so during the winter and the monsoon.
It may take about 2 weeks to develop antibodies after getting the vaccine, which is why it should be taken 2 to 4 weeks before the monsoon or winter. Children under 5 years are not only at a higher risk of complications from the flu but can also spread the infection to others in the community.
Speaking about the need for the annual flu vaccine, Dr. Vinod Gandhi, Director & Senior Consultant Paediatrician from Colors Hospital said, “The symptoms of flu, though similar to common cold, have quite different and in some cases serious implications, particularly for young children between the ages of 6 months and five years. Therefore, we advise parents to give them the annual influenza vaccination against flu. Parents should take their doctor’s advice on the annual flu vaccination.”
The flu is caused by the influenza virus, and it affects the nose, throat, and lungs. Some common symptoms are fever (but not everyone gets a fever), cough, chills, sore throat, muscle ache, headache, and tiredness. The virus can spread easily from a sick person when they speak, sneeze, or cough.
Respiratory droplets that contain the virus can directly reach healthy people, or indirectly if they fall on surfaces e.g., the door that is then touched by someone who is not sick. Many recover in a few days or weeks. But children under the age of 5 years, especially those who are under 2 years; and those with long-term medical conditions may sometimes become very sick with the flu and need to be hospitalized.
Flu complications include dehydration and pneumonia. There are 4 types of influenza viruses, and these are constantly changing. So, the influenza vaccine is reviewed every year and it may be changed, depending on what viruses are causing the disease. For this reason, and because protection from the vaccine may reduce with time, it is recommended that children get vaccinated once a year.
The IAP recommends that children at a higher risk of influenza complications should receive the annual shot even after the age of 5 years. Parents should speak to their paediatrician to know more about the disease and prevention by vaccination.