Whether to vaccinate your children has become a controversial topic these days. In my area, children cannot start school unless they are vaccinated and for the record, as a Health and Safety professional, I am pro vaccination. Yet, when it comes to the flu shot, I have been undecided for years.
Last week we were at our nine month doctors appointment and everything was great. Girls are 24.5lbs and 20lbs, healthy and happy. Then, near the end of the appointment the doctor turned to me and said matter-of-factly, “well we should give them their flu shot”.
I was stunned for a moment.
Flu shot? Should they get the shot? Do they need the shot? Could their be complications?
Before I could answer my mother (who was accompanying me at the appointment) pointed out that they were sick, and so they wouldn’t be able to get vaccinated. Crisis averted…well at least temporarily.
I asked if they should get one? My doctor said her daughter was getting one (her daughter is just a few months older than the twins) which was reassuring that if she was giving it to her daughter it was probably a good idea. She also said that we have been giving flu shots for over a decade and there has been no evidence of any long term ramifications of using the vaccine on babies.
Personally, I have never gotten a flu shot, although others in my family have. Since I am healthy and not immunocompromised I figured I didn’t need one. When I was pregnant with my Sawyer I read articles advising pregnant women to get the shot, I even saw ads on busses and subways urging me to get it, but I decided not to just because, in spite of everything, I didn’t want to take any chances.
Since Sawyer was born in the summer the issue of the flu shot never came up at any of his appointments because they were in the wrong time of year.
How safe is the flu vaccine?
The influenza vaccine is very safe. It cannot cause the flu. Side effects are usually mild and could include:
- mild soreness where the needle went into the arm.
- a slight fever or aching for the first day or two after immunization, especially after the first dose of vaccine.
If needed, taking acetaminophen can help ease the pain. In rare cases, a person may have red or itchy eyes, cough and mild swelling of the face within a few hours of vaccination. This usually goes away within 48 hours.
According to Baby Centre Canada, it is more dangerous not to get the shot than to get it. From the website:
What are the benefits of the flu vaccine for children?
The flu vaccine protects children from serious illness and even death. The youngest children are especially vulnerable to the viruses that cause the flu. Every year in the United States, an average of 20,000 children younger than 5 are hospitalized with flu complications such as pneumonia. Children age 2 and younger who come down with the flu are the most likely to need hospitalization. And kids between 2 and 4 who get the flu are more likely than older children to see a doctor, be taken to an urgent care center, or end up in an emergency room.
So what do I do for the girls?
- Because they are young they only need it once, whereas Sawyer will need two a month apart.
- Now that we live in an area with kids the girls are exposed and have been sick for the majority of the time since we moved (with Sawyer he rarely got sick with no kids around and no daycare).
- It’s free.
- It is made from an inactive virus.
- According to several credible sources, it’s safe.
- I am worried about it.
- There could have side effects.
- It doesn’t work against all forms of the flu.
- The odds of them coming into contact with someone with the flu are still relatively low.
Admittedly, I am probably over thinking it and I don’t know why. But what I do know is that if I am, there are probably other mothers out there who are thinking about it as well. So let’s hear your perspective. Will you be giving your children the flu vaccine this year? Have you done it in the past? Feel free to share your story/ experience.