Influenza Vaccine Now Recommended for Anyone Over 6 Months of Age
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that anyone over the age of 6 months receive an influenza vaccination.
“After last year’s H1N1 pandemic, in which severe cases were seen in children and young adults more than the elderly, it became evident that the risk for influenza can vary with the population,” says Alexis Elward, MD, infectious diseases attending physician and medical director of infection control at St. Louis Children’s Hospital (SLCH). “In addition, there are now so many more immunocompromised people within the general population that it’s clear we really need to protect everyone.”
That includes pregnant women. “Some people have the misconception that women should not get an influenza shot during pregnancy, which is not true,” says Dr. Elward. “Pregnant women are at increased risk for serious complications of influenza and were in fact one of the groups dying with H1N1. In addition, they will be having babies who are too young to mount an immune response against influenza. If the mothers are vaccinated during pregnancy, there’s the potential for their antibody to cross the placenta during the last trimester, providing their babies with some protection.”
According to the CDC, this year’s vaccine is formulated for the following influenza strains:
A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus (the same strain as was used for 2009 H1N1 monovalent vaccines)
A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2)-like virus
B/Brisbane 60/2008-like antigens
“We know that all three of these strains have been circulating in South America, Asia and Africa. So far this fall, we haven’t as yet seen big numbers of influenza in the United States, so there is still plenty of time to vaccinate patients and have them develop immunity,” says Dr. Elward. “The vaccine is a good match this year, there is plenty available, and I would encourage physicians to vaccinate people throughout the influenza season.”
Although no visitation restrictions are currently in effect at Children’s Hospital, those arriving at the hospital are asked about any cold or flu symptoms at the visitors’ desks, and unit nurses are on the alert for symptoms of upper respiratory illness in visitors as well.
“A common cold is a nuisance for an older child or adult, but it can be life-threatening for many of our patients who have undergone or are waiting for organ or bone marrow transplantation or are in our intensive care units,” says Dr. Elward. “We are working together as a team to educate families about these dangers to our hospitalized patients.”