The Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) and the World Health Organization recommend annual influenza/flu vaccination for children between the ages of 6 months to 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. Krishnaswamy, Chief Medical officer, Masonic Children Hospital said, “My advice to parents is to give their children the flu protection they need every year. The flu can lead to severe health complications in children aged 6 months to five years. The annual influenza vaccination is an effective way to reduce the risk of contracting flu.”
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 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 variants are causing the disease. Because of this reason, given that 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.