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Flu season is around the corner – but at Kids First Pediatric Partners, we have already been working for over six weeks to protect our patients from this potentially dangerous infection. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) strongly recommend the annual influenza vaccination for all children ages 6 months and older – and we wholeheartedly agree with these guidelines.

The risks and dangers of the flu are underestimated by so many parents. In the U.S. – over 200,000 people are hospitalized each year, and last winter over 150 children died of the flu. Even for those who do not suffer serious outcomes – the days of high fevers, body aches and generally feeling miserable translates to missed school days, days off from work, sleepless nights and stressful days. So it is extremely important for parents to take the crucial step of getting children vaccinated.

Unfortunately – the flu vaccine suffered a lot of bad publicity last year when there was a “Mismatch.” The production of the flu vaccine is a process that is complicated but worth reviewing. The strains of flu virus that are selected for inclusion in the vaccine are updated each year. Influenza centers in over 100 countries around the world conduct year round monitoring to study disease trends, including which strains are prevalent in certain geographic areas and how they are spreading. In the United States, an advisory committee of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses the available data to decide which strains of influenza to include in the upcoming year’s vaccine. It takes at least six months to produce large quantities of flu vaccine.

In March 2014, a strain of H3N2 virus slightly mutated – making it different than one of the strains that was included for last year’s flu vaccine. It was too late to change the vaccine formulation – and as a result the vaccine did not provide adequate protection – resulting in a rougher flu season.

While this left the flu vaccine program open for criticism – I believe that it underscores the real importance of getting all kids vaccinated. The huge numbers of sick children should be a clear indication of how important it is for families to get their children vaccinated. What’s more, early indications regarding this year’s flu vaccine clearly point to a good “match” – meaning that the 4 stains selected for inclusion are the strains that will be the most prevalent and that the vaccine should provide excellent protection.

And as I wrote about in my last piece – we believe in being very accessible, meaning we are open 7 days a week and have evening hours as well. There is ample opportunity to bring in the whole family to get flu vaccines. It is really quick visit, which will lead to lots of benefit and decrease risk to your family. Just call and our staff will help find a convenient time. Looking forward to a safe and healthy fall and winter.