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December 2018: Have You and Your Teen Gotten the Flu Shot?

National Influenza Vaccination Week is December 2-8, 2018 and highlights the importance of influenza (flu) vaccination. Flu illnesses can lead to complications resulting in hospitalization or death. Additionally, adolescents who have the flu can miss school for a week or longer and can spread the flu to their families, friends, and other people around them.

Flu Vaccine Basics

The flu vaccine protects against different flu virus strains. The strain that is most common during a flu season changes from year to year, so scientists must make new vaccines each flu season. If adolescents do not get the flu vaccine each year, they are less likely to be protected from that season’s strain. The flu vaccine comes in different forms. For the 2018-2019 season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends any licensed, age-appropriate vaccine be used, but the nasal spray flu vaccine is only recommended for people who cannot use the flu shot.

Everyone 6 months of age or older should receive the flu vaccine before the onset of flu virus circulation in their communities. However, the onset, peak, and decline of flu activity also varies every year, so the ideal time to get vaccinated cannot be predicted every season. Generally, the flu season begins in October and peaks between December and February. Healthcare providers should continue to recommend and administer the flu vaccine throughout the flu season.

The seasonal flu vaccine does not protect against all strains of the flu, so it is important to practice proper handwashing and other good health habits. If an adolescent shows flu-like symptoms, they should receive treatment within 48 hours.

Is It Too Late to Get the Flu Vaccine?

While low levels of flu activity between May and October have been reported in the U.S., it is expected to peak in the coming weeks. Adolescents who haven’t already received the flu vaccine should get it now for two reasons:

How Can I Help Adolescents Get Vaccinated?

Parents, healthcare providers, and schools can all help ensure that adolescents get vaccinated.

Parents and caregivers: Keep track of all vaccinations. Use CDC tools and checklists to make sure your adolescent is up-to-date on their immunizations, including the flu shot.

Providers: Create a culture of immunization. Any medical visit is an opportunity to provide information about the flu shot and other recommended vaccinations. Clinic staff can assess the immunization status of adolescents, encourage questions from parents and know how to answer them, and stay informed of current CDC vaccine recommendations.

Schools: Establish vaccination programs. Enlist the support of local healthcare providers and organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics to ensure students are vaccinated in a timely manner.

Keep Track of Immunizations

The holiday season is a great time to catch up with friends and family, but it also can be a great time to schedule an appointment with your adolescent’s healthcare provider and catch up on immunizations, and not just the flu vaccine. Adolescents need four vaccines, starting at age 11 or 12:

  • Influenza (flu) vaccine to protect against seasonal flu.
  • Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (also known as whooping cough).
  • Meningococcal conjugate (MCV4, or MenACWY) vaccine to protect against meningococcal disease (such as meningitis or sepsis, a blood infection).
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to prevent most cancers caused by HPV that can occur later in life.

For information about scheduling appointments and navigating the healthcare system, see OAH’s web pages on Clinical Preventive Services and Healthcare Transitions.

Spread the Word with These Posts

Facebook

  • Parents, protect your adolescent from serious health problems that can be caused by the flu by keeping up—or catching up—on vaccinations. https://bit.ly/2zRwwvz #FightFlu #NIVW
  • It’s not too late to protect your teen from the flu! https://www.cdc.gov/flu #FightFlu #NIVW

Twitter

  • Healthcare providers: Remind parents that teens should get a #flushot EVERY year. Learn about helping patients stay up to date on vaccines with info from @TeenHealthGov. https://bit.ly/2vk7tiu #FightFlu #NIVW
  • DYK: If you have the flu, you can spread it to others even if you don’t feel sick. @CDCflu recommends all healthcare professionals get the #flushot annually. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/healthcareworkers.htm #FightFlu #NIVW
Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on December 14, 2018