Flu season is back and the vaccine is slightly different this year:
The “nasal spray flu vaccine” is a live attenuated vaccine, which contains living, but weakened virus. It is generally not recommended for people with neuromuscular diseases on or off corticosteroids. It is safe for caretakers, siblings and classmates who are around your child to receive flu mist, as the risk of your child “catching” the flu from a close contact vaccinated with flu mist is quite low (0.6-2.4%).
The influenza vaccine, or “flu shot,” is an injection into the muscle, usually given in the upper arm or thigh. The flu shot contains inactivated (dead) virus and is recommended for patients with neuromuscular diseases and patients taking chronic steroids. Because the virus is dead, there is no risk of getting the flu from the flu shot. The flu shot recommended for patients with neuromuscular diseases over age 6 months for 2013-2014 is the IIV4 vaccine. The IIV4 is a quadrivalent vaccine that will protect against 4 kinds of flu viruses: influenza B/Massachusetts (2012-like antigen), influenza A/California (H1N1 – like antigen), influenza A/Victoria (H3N2-like antigen) and a B/Brisbane/2008-like virus. If the quadrivalent vaccine is not available (as availability is severely limited), please do not wait to immunize – the trivalent vaccine protects against three flu viruses and will provide coverage against the same viruses as the quadrivalent with the exception of the B/Brisbane virus. Please discuss this with your healthcare provider.
Children ages 6 months – 8 years may need 2 doses of flu vaccine this year if they have not had 2 or more doses of flu vaccine since July 2010. The first dose should be given as soon as vaccine is available; the second dose should be given at least 28 days later. Please ask your health care provider if your child will need one or two doses this year.
Common side effects from the flu shot are pain at the injection site, low-grade fever, slight tiredness, and mild generalized muscle soreness. These side effects are most common in children getting their first flu shot, and will go away on their own within 1-2 days.
The best time to get vaccinated is as soon as it is available in your community, (preferably by October) and can be given throughout the flu season. It takes about 14 days for the body to build up antibodies for the 3 viruses in the vaccine. Those antibodies will protect against those 3 or 4 flu viruses.
If your current health coverage doesn't include seasonal flu vaccines as a preventive health benefit, MDA's Flu Shot Program can help. Through MDA, individuals affected by neuromuscular disease can receive a free flu shot through their local MDA-sponsored clinic, or they can receive reimbursement (up to $35) for the cost of flu vaccines received from licensed health professionals, including those located at retail pharmacies. For more information about the MDA’s Flu Shot Program, click here.