Thirty million more children will be added to the list of those who should be vaccinated for the flu this year under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new recommendations.
"It’s not just for babies and old people anymore," says Dr. Ken Alexander, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Chicago. "It’s also for your teens."
The new recommendations apply to all children 6 months to 18 years and anyone older than 50, as well as anyone at risk, such as those with lung disease or asthma. The vaccine is also prescribed for pregnant women.
Alexander says the recommendation changes reflect changes in how influenza is spread.
"The attack rate of influenza in a day care center is nearly 100 percent," says Alexander, who points out it was more common in the past for flu to come home with parents from work and a family only got sick about once every three years. Now, with so many more families in which both parents are working and children are in day care longer hours beginning at an earlier age, most children bring the flu home every year.
Alexander says there are two simple reasons to give the vaccine. The first is to keep kids out of the hospital. The second is economics. If your children get sick, you stay home with them and then your risk of contracting the illness is higher, which means you may have to stay home from work longer.
"The flu vaccine is not a live vaccine and cannot give you the flu," Alexander stresses, adding that reaction to the vaccine is extremely rare.
"There are compelling health reasons and compelling real-life reasons to give the vaccine," he says. "This is a vaccine that can help improve your life."