Doctors Notes:

Flu vaccine

Jaclynn Lubbers

Our Flu Vaccine is Here!

I have to admit some excitement when I see the big styrofoam containers full of flu (influenza) vaccine arrive at Holland Pediatrics.  You may think that is strange, but as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner for almost 20 years, a former Pediatric Intensive Care Nurse, and a family member whose loved one’s  immune system doesn’t work well, I know what is contained in those styrofoam containers is really important. You see, our goal at Holland Pediatrics is to help your child be as healthy as he or she can be.  Immunizing your child according to the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations is one way to help your child stay healthy.

When I discuss the influenza vaccine with patients and their parents, I often encounter three recurring myths about the vaccine.   One response I hear is “I got the flu vaccine last year but I still got the flu, it doesn’t work”. When I ask a few more questions to find out what symptoms the patient had, I often hear that he or she had vomiting and diarrhea.  While that is unfortunate and certainly a miserable virus, what the patient is describing is the stomach flu often caused by Norovirus. At this time there is no Norovirus vaccine. The flu vaccine we are offering to your child protects against Influenza, which is a fever and respiratory virus that lasts five to seven days and often makes patients quite miserable.  The patients most at risk to develop complications of influenza are the very young, the elderly, and patients with chronic health conditions such as asthma or heart disease.  

Another myth I hear is regarding how well the vaccine works.  The flu vaccine each year is a scientific “best guess” as to which strains of the influenza virus which will be most active in the coming flu season.   It is true that some years the scientific “best guess” is better than other years. However, even in a year where the match isn’t perfect, the vaccine still provides some protection, causing the sickness to be milder, which is better than no protection at all.

Last, I occasionally hear patients and families tell me the vaccine made them sick shortly after they received it.  The injectable flu vaccine which Holland Pediatrics uses cannot give you the flu. The virus in the vaccine is a dead virus incapable of making you sick.  As with any vaccine, patients can have soreness or redness at the injection site, mild body aches, or even a mild fever for the first couple days, but it is not the flu!  A couple days of discomfort is a small price to pay to avoid getting a true influenza infection. 

In short, we believe the influenza vaccine is really important for the health of your child and also the health of the community.  When your child is healthy during flu season, the rest of your family is more likely to be healthy, their classmates and teachers are more likely to be healthy, and the family members of their classmates and teachers are more likely to be healthy.  So, roll up your sleeves and we will see you at the annual Holland Pediatric Associates flu shot clinic on October 12 from 8:00am-11:30am. No appointment is needed-come on over!