As the 2020/21 influenza season is likely to collide with the currently observed nationwide surge in COVID-19 transmission, Paediatricians and GP’s strongly recommend that all eligible children 6 months of age and older, receive their flu vaccinations by the end of October if at all possible and providing there are sufficient supplies.
Immunisation with any licensed, age-appropriate influenza vaccine, intranasal or injectable is acceptable.
Ideally, children need to have their protection in place before the flu season gets underway, usually, at the end of October, especially as we need to be prepared for possible challenges in accessing vaccination clinics and hospital beds this winter. Unfortunately, we have no good sense of what will be happening in communities or what the winter this year will look like, in terms of other seasonal viruses.
This year's recommendations are very similar to last year's, but the vaccines themselves have changed:
All paediatric vaccines, nasal and injected, now have 4 different strains of the flu virus. Three of the strains are new, and one component remains unchanged from 2019-2020. Therefore the formulations available for children aged 6 months to 35 months have been updated.
GP’s and Paediatricians should give whichever formulation is available in their communities to ensure the greatest possible coverage for the influenza season.
Children ages 6 months to 18 years of age receiving influenza vaccine for the first time, who have had only one single dose ever before, or whose vaccination status is unknown, should be immunised as soon as vaccines become available. They should receive at least one dose, ideally by the end of October. Children with immunodeficiencies, anatomic or functional asplenia (absence of spleen), cochlear implants, or active cerebrospinal fluid leaks are not recommended to have the live (nasal) vaccine.
Of note is that once a child has recovered from any viral intercurrent illness, and this includes COVID-19, there is no contraindication to receiving the influenza vaccine.
One current issue, especially with the return to school is that it can initially be very difficult to distinguish flu, a cold, or even Covid-19 from each other based on clinical symptoms alone. This is why testing and treating for influenza is important as soon as symptoms begin, and this is why preventing flu by vaccination is so important as well.
Social distancing, and handwashing and sanitising precautions, and the use of masks or face coverings are beneficial in reducing all forms of respiratory viruses and will reduce the incidence of other winter infections, such as flu, colds, and gastroenteritis.
Currently, we have nasal flu vaccines available in our Practice (suitable for 2-18 years of age) and currently await the injectable flu vaccines. If you would like your child to receive the nasal flu vaccine, or to be added to our waiting list for the flu injection, please let our office know.