Pediatrician: Flu shot season has arrived

Beeler says supplies are plentiful; earlier is better for vaccinations

By Bryan Goodchild and Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

September 04, 2013

Flu season may seem far away in these remaining days of summer—but it’s none too early for children to get their flu vaccines.

“Flu vaccine is available now,” said UMass Medical School pediatrician Angela Beeler, MD. “In my practice we have pretty much our entire allotment of flu vaccine in our refrigerator at this moment.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends universal flu vaccination for all children six months of age and older, and on Sept. 2 the American Academy of Pediatrics released its recommendation that children receive the vaccine as soon as it is available.

“The flu season can start really early. Last year we started to see flu in the late fall, before people usually expect it in winter,” Dr. Beeler, clinical associate professor of pediatrics, explained. “The earlier you get your flu vaccine, the better protected you’ll be, because it does take a little while for the vaccine to create good antibody levels.”

With more vaccine options available than ever before, new this year is a version that protects against four flu strains instead of the usual three. While only about 20 percent of the total vaccine supply will be the four-strain, or quadrivalent formulation, all nasal spray flu vaccines available in the United Sates are quadrivalent—a double benefit for kids, according to Beeler.

“Any vaccine that covers more strains gives you broader protection, and we strongly encourage that,” she said. “We also have a lot of families who choose the live nasal vaccine for their children partly because it avoids getting your child a shot, and so a lot of kids prefer being able to get the nasal vaccine.”

In this Expert’s Corner video, Beeler updates viewers with the latest recommendations and options for children’s flu vaccines. 

Related links on UMassMedNow:
Finberg explains flu vaccine advance to Globe
UMMS expert seeks better flu vaccines