Annual Flu vaccination: 2017-2018
It's time for flu vaccines, and we're here to help!
This page contains online scheduling for your flu vaccines. If you've come to our flu clinics before, you can jump right in with scheduling. But if you need more info, you'll find it in the FAQs and info section found below the forms. As always, please review all instructions carefully, it makes coordinating hundreds of patients much easier. Thanks for your help!
Ready to schedule?
- Seasonal flu vaccines are usually in limited supply, and we will allocate based on the order in which we receive your forms - please respond promptly.
- Flu clinics are busy and time slots are brief. But we can still keep them smooth and positive with your help - please be flexible with scheduling options and punctual during the flu clinics (we do not do reminder calls for the flu clinics). Thank you!!
- Information you'll need to complete the form (details below in FAQs and info section):
- Dose of vaccine (based on child's age)
- How many doses each child will need (see below)
- When you'll be getting the vaccine (either during a flu clinic or a well check)
Online Scheduling Forms
Please select the number of children you'd like to schedule for the vaccine:
For help with any of the items on these forms, reference the FAQs and info section below. Your form will open in a separate tab or window so you can keep this page open for reference.
Frequently asked questions and info
Is the flu vaccine recommended for my child?
Annual flu vaccination is recommended for all children ages 6 months and up. If your infant is less than 6 months old, those around your baby should receive the vaccine to protect the baby, as infants are one of the highest risk groups for complications of influenza. For all kids ages 6 months to 5 years, as well as those with chronic medical conditions, the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks and it's a pretty easy decision. For healthy kids 5 years and up, if you're feeling conflicted about the flu vaccine, or wanting more information, I've included a more in depth discussion of the pros and cons of annual flu vaccination following these FAQs below.
Should we do the nasal or the injection?
Note: the nasal version (Flumist) will NOT be offered this year, much to our sadness. Recent data has found the current version far less effective than the good old fashioned shot. We hope in future years they may find a way to improve this, but until then we will only be recommending the shot.
Injection/shot - this is just like other shots you're accustomed to. It is a preservative-free, inactivated virus vaccine (no live virus). It is the only option this year, but it is a very good option - it is more effective, has slightly fewer side effects, and works great for children and adults of all ages above 6 months old. We use the quadrivalent, preservative-free option at our clinic.
How many doses does my child need this year?
For children less than 9 years old, immunity doesn't built up until they've had at least 2 flu vaccines at some point. So if they haven't yet had those first two, they need two this year to jump-start the engine, so to speak. Every year after that, or for any child aged 9 years and older, only 1 dose is needed. Here's a simple guide on what your child needs this year:
Children 9 years and older
- Only 1 dose.
Children aged 6 months through 8 years
- If your child has had at least two doses of flu vaccine (cumulatively) at some point, they only need 1 this year.
- If they've never before had the flu vaccine, or only had 1 flu vaccine (cumulatively) since birth, they'll need 2 this year.
If you find any of this confusing, or you're not sure what they've had, no problem! Just check two dates to be safe and leave a note in the comments box of the form stating that you'd like us to double check the info for you.
When can we get the vaccine?
- During a well check: If your child has a well check coming up before the end of the year, it's preferable to do the flu vaccine during your well check. Simply note this on your form, and we'll reserve a dose for your well check.
- During our flu clinics: Since many kids are not due for well checks during this season, we reserve a few afternoons in September, October and November for families to come in for our annual "flu clinics". Each child is given a specific 5 minute appointment within that period. Due to the massive volume of appointments we cannot accommodate specific time requests within that window. Basically, let us know which clinic you'd like to attend, and we'll send you a confirmation with your time slot. Please do everything you can to be as punctual as possible, it really helps things go much more smoothly.
Want more information?
Here is the link for the CDC's info page about the flu vaccine for children. You can also read my in depth discussion of influenza vaccination below.
Ready to schedule?
Navigate back to the top of this page and open the appropriate form. See you soon!
Should we do the flu vaccine this year?
A more in depth discussion.
The influenza vaccine is an often misunderstood vaccine, so I’d like to clarify just what it does and doesn’t do, as well as what risks it does and doesn't have. Short answer: for young children aged 6 months to 5 years, the benefits far outweigh the risks, so it's a pretty easy decision: yes. For healthy, older children ages 6 years and up, the benefits still probably outweigh the risks for most families, but it's more subtle.
What does the vaccine protect against?
The “flu shot” protects against a very specific virus called influenza. Many people routinely catch illnesses that are casually referred to as “the flu”, when in reality many of these are caused by several different milder viruses. The influenza virus is a doozy not to be mistaken for the common cold: you get high fevers (easily in the 104-105 range), heavy cough, trouble breathing, vomiting, abdominal pain, muscle aches, headache, etc. Not infrequently, there can be complications such as ear infections or pneumonia, and children are routinely admitted to the hospital for this illness, whether for rehydration, oxygen, or antibiotic therapy. Besides ending up in the hospital, influenza also leads to a ton of x-rays, antibiotics to treat the bacterial complications, and other pharmaceutical usage (even in my most naturally-leaning families, due to the severity of symptoms). The likelihood of severe illness is highest in young children and decreases with age. The risk is also greater for children with chronic medical conditions such as asthma or heart disease.
What's the overall chance of catching the flu? This ranges from about 10% to 20% each year, and can be higher in pandemic years. As you can imagine, these numbers vary depending on many factors, such as whether or not a child is in daycare, whether or not they are breastfed, their constitution, the severity of a particular flu season as a whole, and how many people in your community vaccinate.
It is important to note that while infants are less likely to catch the flu, they are still much more likely overall to end up in the hospital. School-aged children are the most likely to catch the flu, but they are the least likely overall to end up in the hospital. The reason this is important is that some parents will mistakenly think “because my baby stays at home they will be protected.” Most babies are indeed at home, but nonetheless they are still the highest risk category out of all healthy children simply because it's harder than you'd think to keep all virus out of your house, and when they do catch it, it is awfully severe.
Another misconception is that only kids with medical problems come to harm from the flu. Actually, only about half of influenza fatalities have a recorded underlying medical condition! Having such a condition (asthma, heart disease, etc) definitely increases your risk, but not having any conditions is not necessarily a guarantee for safety.
What does the vaccine not protect against?
The flu vaccine does not protect against other viruses, like the common cold. It also doesn’t protect against ALL influenza strains, though in general it does a pretty good job. Each year the strains that are most predominant in a community change, and the vaccine strains are selected based on which strains are most predicted to be prevalent that year. So the effectiveness varies year to year. Some years it’s great, other years it’s so-so. Even in off years it still provides reasonable protection, though. On average, you could estimate its effectiveness at around 70%. It's actually getting better as it now protects against 4 rather than just 3 strains.
What is the chance the flu vaccine will help my child this year?
It is very difficult to pin down precise numbers or predict anything with influenza, because it changes drastically year to year. In any given year it could EASILY be more than twice as bad or less than half as bad, and in any given year we could have a mass pandemic. But, if you took a year where the risk of catching the virus was 17%, and the vaccine effectiveness was 70%, those who DON’T get the shot would have a 17% chance of catching the flu, and those who DO get the shot would have a 5% chance of catching the flu. Again, really rough numbers just to give you basic idea of how this works.
What’s in the vaccine?
The vaccine contains four stains, two influenza B strains and two influenza A strains. The vaccines that we purchase here do not contain aluminum or thimerosal and are all preservative-free.
What type of reactions can be seen from the vaccine?
The risk of any significant reaction to the vaccine is very low. It has been around for a long time, and as you can imagine it would need to be a really well tolerated vaccine in order for it to be given on a yearly basis. Local reactions are common as with all vaccines, and can be seen in up to 15-20% (soreness, redness, swelling, etc). These reactions are brief, mild and resolve on their own quickly. General symptoms, like fever and malaise, are uncommon and only reported in about 1% of vaccine recipients (more common with the nasal vaccine). Allergic reactions are quite rare, but people who have extremely severe egg allergies should let me know because there are traces of egg in the vaccine.
Does the vaccine weaken my child's immune system?
No. It is a misconception that flu vaccines weaken your immunity against other illnesses. This stems from the fact that people receive the flu vaccine at the start of a cold season, right before they are about to start getting sick, which makes you feel like the vaccine was what kicked it all off. But this is just a false perception due to the timing of events. However, there is some suggestion that catching the actual flu on a regular basis could give you more lasting immunity against the flu virus in the long term because the immune response is stronger. It's not conclusive though, and you'll have to decide for yourself if the risk of catching the flu regularly is worth the long term boosted flu immunity, or if you'd prefer to catch the flu less often and less severely in exchange for simply decent flu immunity.
The flu vaccine is an effective way of preventing influenza, and is getting better with time as the vaccines improve. Whether or not you choose to get it depends on several factors. It is strongly recommended for all healthy infants and children age 6 months to 5 years, as well as children of any age with medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, and developmental delays. (Infants less than 6 months old are too young for the vaccine, so their parents and siblings should get the vaccine to protect them.) All of these children are at the highest risk of ending up in the hospital and having complications. In all of these cases the benefits far outweigh the risks, and I wouldn't even twice about it.
After that, for some it's a family choice, though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends annual vaccination for all children. If your child got sick for 5 days with high fever, heavy cough and vomiting, how readily are you able to care for them? Some don’t mind this, and for others it’s a huge burden: staying home from work, coming in for a few doctor’s visits, sometimes needing an antibiotic, etc. For some people, getting a vaccine every year feels like a larger burden than getting sick periodically, and for others, it’s the opposite. Other important things to consider: How much would a flu illness cost your family (i.e. missed work, copays, medications, possible hospital bills, etc)? How does your family view your responsibility in your community to stop the spread of the virus to others who are at higher risk? Children with weakened immune systems won't respond to the vaccine, so they rely on others in the community to reduce the flu burden to protect them, especially considering the flu is extremely serious in those with compromised immunity. For healthy kids, the risk of a fatality or permanent complication is quite low, but definitely not zero—how comfortable are you with this risk? These are the types of (sometimes difficult) questions your family will want to discuss.
As always, whether or not you choose to do the vaccine remember these other important points about staying healthy this winter:
- wash your hands
- wash them again
- definitely wash them before you touch your nose
- cough into your elbow, not your hand (pose like a vampire)
- get plenty of sleep
- reduce stress
- stay warm
- eat healthy foods
Hope this helps, just let us know as soon as possible because supplies are usually limited.