The Flu Vaccine
Guest: Dr. Paul Darden – Pediatrics
Host: Dr. Linda Austin – Psychiatry
Linda Austin: I’m Dr. Linda Austin. I’m talking, today, with Dr. Paul Darden who
is Professor of Pediatrics and an expert in epidemiology and vaccination. Dr. Darden, let’s talk about the flu vaccine
for kids. Why should kids get the flu
Paul Darden: Well, the kids should get
flu vaccines because, of course, the younger ones get admitted to the hospital
just as often as the elderly. So,
children under two have significant problems with the flu. They get sick.
Linda Austin: What happens when they get
sick? How sick do they get?
Paul Darden: They get fever, they cough,
their body aches. And we worry, when we
look at them, that they have a severe disease, and so they end up in the
hospital. Now, to be honest, there’s
less chance of death in the young than there is in the elderly, but the chances
of getting admitted to the hospital is actually just as much and in some cases
greater than the elderly. And we now
recommend it for kids six months to five years.
And those under six months, or those who for whatever reason can’t get
the flu vaccine, we recommend that their family members be immunized. So, if you have a new baby, it’s time to get
your flu vaccine.
Linda Austin: I understand there’s a new
form of the flu vaccine.
Paul Darden: There is. It’s the cold-adapted influenza virus
vaccine, and the trade name is Flu-Mist.
It’s a nasal spray. For all of
us, myself included, who don’t like to get shots, you can now get the flu
vaccine with a nasal spray. It’s not
recommended for quite the same ages, it’s 2 – 49 years, but it is a flu vaccine
that is a nasal spray.
Linda Austin: So, can’t 50-year-olds get
Paul Darden: I’m very disappointed,
having passed that point myself. It
really just hasn’t been studied in that age group. Something that is probably not unexpected is
that the young have better immune systems.
They react better to vaccines. As
you get older, you don’t react as well.
This vaccine actually seems to protect longer. It seems to protect against more strains than
the injected vaccine. So, for the
younger, as in, from my perspective, those under 40, but including children,
it’s a very nice alternative to the traditional injected flu vaccine.
Linda Austin: I understand that kids
actually can often be the source of entry of flu virus into a household.
Paul Darden: It’s actually, probably, a
common way for flu to enter the house.
School kids, not unexpectedly, all get together and intermingle and
cough on each other, so schools are a very common place for flu to start and to
be spread around. And then, of course,
the children, after being in school and getting exposed, come home to the
family, to that new baby, to grandma, or to people who expect to go to work
Linda Austin: When in the season is it
too late to get the flu vaccine?
Paul Darden: It’s probably too late if
the disease has reached its peak in your community. So, I would actually, if the flu vaccine is
available, get it. Flu vaccine is
usually available, in some respects, up until April, from, maybe, as early as
September, always by October, up until at least February and sometimes as late
Linda Austin: Do they think that this
year will be a tough year for the flu?
Paul Darden: You know, it’s always hard
Linda Austin: Kind of like predicting
Paul Darden: It’s very much like
predicting hurricanes. We predict severe
seasons and then we don’t see them, and we say for mild and it’s a severe
one. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how
severe the disease is supposed to be this year.
We have had our first confirmed case in Charleston, so it’s time to get the flu
vaccine. That means the disease is
starting here, but we may still be a month or more away from seeing a
significant number of cases.
Linda Austin: Is it possible to have
gotten a vaccine so early in the autumn that it doesn’t last the entire season.
Paul Darden: You know, Linda, that is a
possibility. The injected flu vaccine
probably lasts only three or four months.
The nasal spray flu vaccine lasts longer than that. And, in children, it probably has, in fact,
protection into the next season. So,
when do you want to get it? Well, I
usually recommend waiting until late October or November. I think then is the perfect time to get it
because you’ll almost certainly have gotten it before flu hits your community
and, probably, you’ll be protected through the most likely time for the flu
epidemic. But, still, it’s truly never
Linda Austin: Why is it that flu season
is in the winter?
Paul Darden: I don’t know. You know, we think it may vacation in the Bahamas. Just kidding.
We actually look for flu in the Asian countries and in the southern
hemisphere because it seems to follow the same season as we have here, but with
their seasons reversed. They see it when
we’re not seeing it. And we look for the
new strains there. And, actually, in
April or May, the CDC chooses what they think will be the flu virus we will see
in the United States
next year. And it takes about six months
for the vaccine companies to produce the new vaccine.
Linda Austin: Dr. Darden, thank you so
Paul Darden: Thank you, Linda.
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