Needed or not? – Is it necessary to protect children with a vaccine against the flu? Basically, in healthy babies and children, a flu shot is not necessary. However, the STIKO recommends vaccination in children from 6 months, if they are at risk of endangerment due to a basic disease.
Influenza vaccination in the child: necessary or not?
Every year, around 2 million people in Germany suffer from a flu infection (influenza). Symptoms of this condition include high fever, chills, severe body aches, headache, runny nose, and cough.
Especially in people with an already weakened immune system, lung and middle ear infections or, in rare cases, meningitis can occur as complications.
The STIKO Standing Committee, therefore, recommends that certain groups at risk of influenza be vaccinated in October or November before starting the annual flu season during the winter months. These risk groups include people over the age of 60, pregnant women, and chronically ill children and adults.
In case of an infection with the flu virus, these individuals are at an increased risk of developing life-threatening complications.
But adults who come into contact with other people, such as doctors, nurses, teachers, and educators, are also recommended to have a flu shot. The vaccine reduces the risk of influenza and can often relieve the severity of the symptoms.
The costs are usually taken over by the health insurance companies. Of course, healthy adults can be vaccinated against influenza. Please discuss this with your doctor.
But is it necessary to vaccinate children? Basically, in healthy babies and children, a flu shot is not necessary. However, the STIKO recommends vaccination in children from 6 months, if they are at risk of endangerment due to a basic disease.
These basic conditions include, for example, chronic metabolic, cardiac or circulatory diseases. But even children with a chronic neurological disease such as multiple sclerosis should receive a flu vaccine.
Which vaccine is suitable for children?
Especially for children and adolescents from 2 to 17 years, a live vaccine has been available in Germany since winter 2012/2013. This flu vaccine is given to the little patient as a nasal spray. According to research, this vaccine protects children better than the usual dead vaccines that are injected into adults.
However, since most of the experience with this live vaccine is available for children under 7, the STIKO recommends this vaccine for children from 2 to 6 years old. Babies and toddlers under the age of 2 will receive half the adult dose and children over the age of 6 will receive a full adult dose of the dead vaccine. If you are unsure, ask your pediatrician for advice.
Possible risks of influenza vaccination in the child
Most people will tolerate the vaccines against influenza. Rarely, vaccination reactions such as tiredness, muscle pain or nausea can occur. Also, swelling and pain at the injection site are possible. These reactions disappear in most cases after about 1 to 3 days.
Influenza vaccination in children, as well as adults, should be avoided if there is a high fever or an acute infection. Also, children and adolescents with severe asthma, immunodeficiency or salicylate therapy (administration of certain pain medications) should not be vaccinated with the live vaccine.
It also needs to be clarified whether children are allergic to certain ingredients, such as egg white, which is found in still vaccines. Meanwhile, however, vaccines are available that are free of egg white and therefore suitable for allergy sufferers.
In very rare cases, a flu shot is associated with a nervous system disorder and paralysis. The cause of the so-called Guillain-Barré syndrome is still unknown.
- Healthy children do not need to be vaccinated against the flu
- Children with chronic diseases should receive a flu vaccine
- For children from 2 to 6 years, STIKO recommends a live vaccine (nasal spray)
- The vaccines are well tolerated in most cases
- Side effects such as muscle aches and tiredness can occur