The Flu Shot Blues

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Getting a flu shot should be easier this fall since manufacturers had time to include protection from the H1N1 virus in the mix.

Many of the problems last year occurred because the swine-flu outbreak came after the seasonal vaccine was developed, said Dr. Dennis Cunningham, a member of the Section of Infectious Diseases at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

This year one vaccine will offer protection from seasonal flu and swine flu and it should be easy to come by, Cunningham said. "People should be able to get it at their doctor's office, the hospital and grocery stores and pharmacies."

That's good news, said Columbus mother Kathy Kincaid. She and her daughter Madison, then 2, waited in line for more than two hours to get their flu shots last fall.

"It was horrible," recalled Kincaid, who was also three months pregnant at the time. "I didn't realize the wait was going to be outside. It was chilly and we didn't have jackets."

Despite the wait, Kincaid said she was glad she and Madison received the vaccine. Neither of them got sick over the winter.

She's hoping to vaccinate Madison, now 3, and Elliott, who was born in May, at her pediatrician's office this fall.

Cunningham urged parents to vaccinate their children to prevent them from catching the flu, which can lead to hospitalization and, in some cases, death.

Required Shots

Vaccines are optional for adults, but they are necessary for most school-aged children.

The Ohio Department of Health has added three new immunization requirements for the 2010-2011 school year. Children entering seventh grade must receive a tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) or tetanus and diphtheria (Td) booster. Children starting kindergarten need a second dose of the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine and must receive their final dose of polio vaccine after their fourth birthday but before the start of school.

Parents should contact their doctor or local health department to schedule an appointment for immunization, said Judy Harmon, Ohio spokesperson for immunizations for the National Association of School Nurses.

"If a child does not meet the guidelines they could be temporarily excluded from school," she said. "The group that's going to get caught off guard is the seventh grade. Everyone knows kindergarteners need shots before going to school."

Flu FAQ

Why is the flu shot so important? Last year, my family couldn't get the vaccine and we were all healthy.

"If you didn't get it, that's great," said Dr. Dennis Cunningham of Nationwide Children's Hospital. "But there were a couple of pediatric deaths in Ohio. I'm not one to take a chance. I feel better knowing children are protected."

My children often experience discomfort after receiving the shot. Why should I put them through that?

"You can get some symptoms two to three days later," said Dr. Dennis Cunningham of Nationwide Children's Hospital. "That's your immune system making a response. It's less than if you get the flu. It's worth it to protect yourself from getting seriously ill."

Who should take priority when it comes to getting a flu shot?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it's especially important for some people to get vaccinated. If you have certain underlying health conditions -- like asthma, heart disease or diabetes -- or if you're pregnant, you're at greater risk of complications from flu. If you're over 65, you're also at risk of complications.

What are the risks from getting a flu shot?

Also according to the Centers, the viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you can't get the flu from a flu shot. The risk of serious harm is extremely small. However, a vaccine, like any medicine, may rarely cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions.