2015-2016 Influenza Season
Flu activity is increasing in the US, as would be expected at this time of year. There already have been 4 deaths in children from influenza. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report provides an update regarding the 2015-2016 flu activity. Overall, the viruses identified to be circulating in communities appear to be well matched with the strains included in this season’s trivalent and quadrivalent influenza vaccines. It is important to continue to recommend influenza vaccination to our patients and ensure complete vaccination of young children.
Number of Seasonal Influenza Doses for Children 6 Months Through 8 Years of Age
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy “Recommendations for Prevention and Control of Influenza in Children, 2015-2016” states that if a child received 2 or more doses of trivalent or quadrivalent vaccine prior to July 1, 2015, he or she would only need 1 dose this year. The 2 previous doses need not have been received during the same influenza season or consecutive influenza seasons. If the child did NOT receive 2 or more doses prior to July 1, 2015, or if the influenza vaccine history is not clear, 2 doses should be given this year, four weeks apart. Steps should be taken to ensure parents understand whether or not their child needs to come back for a second vaccine dose. The value of the second dose is emphasized by a recently published study in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal titled “Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness for Fully and Partially Vaccinated Children 6 months to 8 Years Old during 2011-2012 and 2012-2013: The Importance of Two Priming Doses“.
Importance of Antiviral Medications
Children clinically presumed to have influenza should be considered early on for antiviral treatment, when indicated. This can help minimize morbidity and mortality. Antiviral treatment should be started as soon as possible after influenza illness onset and should not be delayed while waiting for a definitive test result because early therapy provides the best outcomes. Educating parents about this, especially when their child is at risk for influenza complications, is a best practice in influenza control. While antiviral medications are not a substitute for influenza immunization, they are important in the control of influenza.
Many Strategies Exist to Reach Families
Messages to families about the importance of influenza and influenza vaccine and sharing these messages through a variety of strategies can extend your reach and make a real difference. For example, a new Public Health Matters Blog outlines steps to protect people from the flu. Pediatricians can share a link to this blog with families and encourage them to take important steps to prepare for when the flu strikes their community. Also consider sharing the Vaccine Locator. This tool shares the locations of influenza vaccine in a person’s area. Does your practice have a web site or a social media outlet? If not, consider creating one.
For more information, see the AAP Red Book Online Influenza Resource page and the CDC FluView. The Protect Children from Influenza infographic identifies actions pediatricians can take to help protect children, especially those at highest risk. All “What’s the Latest with the Flu” messages are archived. Members of the AAP also have access to Flu Vaccine Recommendations Speaking Points and updates related to the 2015-16 Influenza Vaccine Supply.