The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a statement updating its recommendation for all children ages 6 months and older to be immunized against influenza as soon as vaccine is available.
Children should receive either the trivalent vaccine that protects against three strains of the virus or a new quadrivalent vaccine that protects against four strains, according to the statement.
The updated statement was published Sept. 2 on the website of the journal Pediatrics and will appear in the October print edition.
A special effort should be made to vaccinate people in vulnerable groups, including children with chronic health conditions; children of American Indian or Alaskan Native heritage; healthcare workers; women who are pregnant, may become pregnant or are breast-feeding; and household contacts and caregivers of children in high-risk populations.
New quadrivalent influenza vaccines for the 2013-14 season contain the same three strains as the trivalent vaccine, plus an additional B strain. Although this vaccine may offer improved protection, the AAP has not stated a preference for one type of flu vaccine.
Parents should not delay vaccinating their children to obtain specific vaccine, Henry Bernstein, DO, FAAP, a pediatrician and the lead author of the flu recommendations, said in a news release. Influenza virus is unpredictable, and what’s most important is that people receive the vaccine soon, so that they will be protected when the virus begins circulating.
Recent data show most people who have an egg allergy can receive the inactivated influenza vaccine, according to the AAP. Although inactivated vaccine given as a single, age-appropriate dose is well-tolerated by all recipients who have egg allergy, clinicians should consult with an allergist for any child with history of a severe reaction.
The AAP continues to recommend using the antiviral medicines oseltamivir or zanamivir for children hospitalized for influenza or with severe influenza symptoms, and in children with influenza who have underlying chronic conditions. Given its known safety profile, oseltamivir can be used to treat influenza in both term and preterm infants from birth, while chemoprophylaxis should be considered only in term infants, according to the academy.