Flu Vaccine

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Pros and Cons of giving flu shot to my 2 teens?

Oct 2008

We have never had flu shots before. Some years we get the flu and some years we don't. This year our Dr is recommending that we all get the shot. None of us fits the categories of 'special needs' such as asthma, suppressed immune system, and the like. Anyone want to chime in on their thoughts on the pros and cons of the shots? I prefer to hear from people who are not typically against innoculations. thanks! confused

My understanding is that the rec. used to be that only high-risk people get the shot, but then they realized that low-risk people were serving as reservoirs for the disease. so now they recommend for strong healthy people too. My understanding is the benefit to you/your kids is not that great (though less likely to get a very bad illness!), but the benefit to society is huge. Every year thousands of people die from flu. So if you can save a life with $15 and a little owie, that seems like a good deal! Go for it!
You know, this could be just me, but every year I got a flu shot I came down with the flu. The years I didn't get a shot, I didn't get sick. Granted, when I got the shots my twins were younger and maybe the flu came to me via them, but I haven't had a flu shot in eight years and haven't had the flu in all that time (yes, I am knocking wood as I type!) So I don't see the shots as a guarantee that you won't get sick and skipping the shots doesn't mean you WILL get sick. Unconvinced
My daughter just had the nasal version and all went very well! I actually had the flu when she got the nasal spray, but she never caught it from me. She didn't have any side effects from it but I have heard that patients can come down with mild flu-like symptoms. By the way, she's not in any risk category either. Marilynn
I had never had a flu shot in my life either, until I got the flu and passed it onto my then 18-month-old daughter. Then I always got a flu shot and neither my daughter nor I have gotten the flu since. My daughter got her first flu shot this week because our insurance now covers it. I can't think of any cons. For healthy adults and healthy kids/teens the pro, besides not feeling miserable for a week or two, is to lessen the possibility of passing it on to unprotected babies, the elderly and people in risk groups. Several thousand people die of the flu in the US annually. -- don't like getting sick and don't want to pass it on if I do
I can't cite any studies for you just personal experience. We've all gotten flu shots since my now teen-aged kids were in pre-school. It has drastically cut down on our rate of sickness each year. We're not considered 'high risk' in any way, though my mother is now elderly and I wouldn't want to pass the flu on to her. She's always gotten a flu shot every year, has very rarely been sick but I saw recently that flu shots may be less effective in the elderly. My kids still see their pediatrician (because they like her!) and we all get flu shots from our pediatrician. no vaccine phobia here

Flu Vaccine for baby?

Oct 2007

Flu season is almost here! I have a toddler and an infant. My tot got the thimerosal flu vaccine in mid Oct. My pediatrician's office administers flu vaccines to babies 6 months or older so the doctor said she can come back in a couple of months for the vaccination. She is exclusively breast-fed so I'm hoping my antibodies will protect her in Nov and Dec. Since she's so young, I'm thinking of skipping her vaccine this winter. I'm thinking that both my partner and I should get the flu vaccination. We're both in really good general health. What are other families doing? want to stay healthy this winter

I had a similar dilemma with my son: he's a July baby and was breast fed, with what seems to be a good immune system, so I really didn't think he needed the flu shot. Plus I'd heard about vaccines in general having potential (if small) risks, and he had become listless for a few hours after his 3 month vaccines. But his pediatrician recommended the flu shot especially since he has lung function issues, and his pulmonologist had insisted we give him synergist (not a vaccine, but injections of the cold antibodies to stop very vulnerable babies from even getting a cold!). Anyhow, although I was very hesitant, we did everything they told us to, synergist and vaccines and the flu shot, and our son did indeed have a very healthy first two years. Breastfeeding alone may have done the trick; I'll never know. If my son had not had underlying health issues, I believe I would not have bothered with the flu shot, and certainly not with the synergist! Palmer's mom
I don't give my kids (2 and 4) the flu vaccine because of the thimerosal. I always get it myself - I am and nurse and am exposed to all kinds of bugs. Maybe once they are at least 5 or teenagers or something I'll give it to them not now with their little brains developing so fast. anon
Not to be alarmist, but the number one cause of death among infants is respiratory illness often associated with the flu. Because their lungs are so small they can easily suffocate when their lungs become involved. I highly recommend getting the vaccine as soon as you baby is 6 months. You may be protected but your baby can be infected by anyone else (unless you confine him to home) Also your toddler comes in contact with many young kids who could easily have the flu and could still get a mild case that could be transmitted to your baby. The flu vaccine is among the least problematic and really, really necessary. I should say that I also have alot of reservations about vaccinations but some are just too beneficial to pass on. another concerned mom
you should do a little bit of research on the flu vaccine itself, and maybe vaccines on the whole. what i understand about the flu vaccine is that it is developed by the doctors who guess which flu strain will likely effect the most people this year and then they develop the vaccine for that one strain. this means that there are several other flu strains that you would not be immune to. in addition, some people get sick with the flu when they receive the vaccine and some people i know have had the worst flu season in their life after getting vaccinated. for us, as a family, we do not get vaccinated for the flu. i personally feel like if i'm going to give my children a vaccine, i want it to be a guarantee, not a ''might keep you healthy''. in the meantime, we eat a diet based on organic seasonal fruits and veges, along with plenty of water and tea and we wash our hands frequently! anon
The last set of responses contained some wildly incorrect information on the flu vaccine that I would like to correct. The flu vaccine is created anew each year from the most prevalent strains currently affecting people. Doctors analyze active strains in the Southern Hemisphere (currently finishing their winter flu season) to create the vaccine. This year South America had a mild flu season, Australia's was bad. They took the 3 most prevalent strains and made the current flu vaccine. Once you get the vaccine, it takes up to 2 weeks to have created anti-bodies strong enough to fight it off. The flu vaccine (sadly) is not for the stomach flu.

My entire family has had the vaccine for the last five years. We haven't had any problems and been flu free. We do it because I watched several holidays ruined by infections, and me trying to parent with a 103 fever and a new baby. You and your spouse would probably not be the ones in the hospital with the flu, it will be your toddler or grandma who really suffers. Not to be an alarmist, but after spending last weekend in the ER (of a great hospital) watching them so short staffed that two men with possible heart attacks and an infant in distress were waiting hours, I would get a vaccine before Thanksgiving and lots of new exposure. Rachelle

You asked what other families are doing: ever since our baby was born we have gotten both her and ourselves vaccinated every flu season, and we just did it again (she's two now). We find parenting hard enough with just the addition of the winter's cycle of daycare colds--no way we want to add the flu on top of that!
I am a pediatrician and wanted to respond to some of the information given by other posters concerning the influenza vaccine. First, California mandates by law that kids under age 3 receive thimerosol (mercury) free flu vaccine. Second, the vaccine is a killed form of the influenza virus, so you can't get or spread the flu from the vaccine. Your baby may experience a sore leg or a fever within the first 72 hours of getting the vaccine (as can happen with many of the vaccines (s)he is already receiving). Third, babies experience the highest morbidity (i.e. bad results from) the flu than any other age group. They are more likely to develop pneumonias, for example. (Elderly folks, however, experience the highest mortality). Fourth, even if the public health gurus who have to ''guess'' each year which flu strains to place in the vaccine get it somewhat wrong, you may still get partial protection and less severe flu symptoms than you might have gotten otherwise.

This year, the CDC is recommending all kids between 6 months and 18 years get the flu vaccine. This is an excellent public health recommendation since influenza is spread throughout our population through our schools and day-cares. In Japan, they used to immunize their school aged populations first and found a big decrease in influenza in the rest of the population and a decrease in flu deaths in the elderly, who don't make a great antibody response to the vaccine. Unfortunately, there was a public outcry since the ''vulnerable population'' was not being vaccinated. They then went back to their usual way of giving out the vaccine, and, predictably, flu deaths went back up.

I have given my kids their flu vaccines every year since infancy and took them myself when I was pregnant with both of them. It's good for your family and good for public health. Madelyn

Flue shot and frozen shoulder

May 2007

I am curious if others have experienced this: I had a flu shot last fall and my arm was sore for weeks. Eventually I was unable to move my shoulder w/o pain and by January was diagnosed with frozen shoulder. I had an underlying 'non- surgical' tear from an earlier injury to that shoulder. I've been told that no one knows what causes frozen shoulder, but 'they' suspect it is viral and there is anecdotal evidence that it can occur after a flu shot. Also, it affects mostly women over 40 (I'm in my 40s); I haven't been able to find out any more info about it and am wondering if anyone else knows about this. The condition is painful and lasts around a year. I am both wondering how prevalent it is and why there isn't more known about it. I will be thinking long and hard before I get my next flu shot. not sure flu shots are worth it anymore

I've had frozen shoulder a few times in the last 20 years. I gather that if you're susceptible, any inflammation in the shoulder can lead to frozen shoulder. My own experience is that if all the shoulder muscles, including those connected to the shoulder blade, are in good tone, it's easier to bounce back from any insult (such as a tear or overwork) and avoid the inflammation. It sounds like inflammation from the flu shot is definitely related, on top of the existing tear. If you can get your shoulder into really good shape by next fall (of course avoiding aggravating the injury in the process), you may be able to handle a flu shot OK (no guarantee!). But if you can't, it could be a setup for another frozen shoulder. Keeping mobile despite pain is very important, as is knowing how much pain is OK and when to slack off exercise. Sorry I can't be of more help! Nils
Do a google! Here are three resources from a quick search I just did of ''frozen shoulder'': http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/fact/thr_report.cfm?Thread_ID=162 http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/frozen-shoulder/DS00416 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frozen_shoulder Anon
I am a Physical Therapist. I don't have an answer to your flu shot question,although I have heard of a link as well. I do know that frozen shoulders usually last a while but do get better with therapy. If you haven't seen a Physical Therapist, you may want to think about asking for a referral.

I am also wondering who diagnosed frozen shoulder, as it is commonly misdiagnosed. I think you stated an old cuff tear. This could actually be related to that. You mentioned pain with mov't but not decreased mobility of shldr. A true frozen shldr also presents with profound loss of range of motion in joint for all directions(planes) of movement.

I don't mean to confuse you, but I have been called to treat a majority of ''frozen shoulders'' that were not actual frozen shldrs at all, and they all responded well and quickly once treated appropriately.

I guess what I am suggesting is (if you haven't already) getting another opinion, seeking out an orthopedic referral, requesting and MRI, getting a referral to PT. A good PT will catch the misdiagnosis if made and can get you going on a treatment so you don't sit around and wait for it to get better on it's own, which is often what is done w/ frozen shldr. Good luck. Lisa

Hi, I had a very similar experience 4 years ago when I got my first and only flu shot. I will NEVER get one again. I had such intense pain at injection site and horrible body aches.

I did not have the frozen shoulder as you describe but I can sure relate to what you are going thru. I hope you find relief with physical therapy or some other type of treatment. I will never get a flu shot again. Mary

I am 41 and have had frozen shoulder for the past 9 months. I was in so much pain during the first 6 months that I couldn't sleep. But no one could tell me what caused it! I have never had a flu shot, and I didn't have a shoulder injury (though I did have some minor problems in that shoulder from breastfeeding). It seems like, if you have some kind of weakness in one shoulder, then that shoulder is susceptible. For me, I think it was triggered by a very intense four weeks of computer work where I was using the mouse a lot.

Anyway, whatever the cause, you need to focus on cures now. I found something on the Internet that helped me a lot: ''The Ultimate Frozen Shoulder Therapy Guide'' by Brian Schiff (I don't have the link, but you can Google it). It costs something like $30 but is money well spent. The exercises were far more helpful than the physical therapist I was seeing (who didn't seem to know what to do). They say it goes away by itself, but I think the exercises helped it go away faster. Plus the guide gives you tips on how to deal with the constant pain.

Also, you have to be patient. I drew a pencil line on the wall and every day as I did the exercise where you push your hand up the wall, I tried to get it slightly above the line from the previous day. It wasn't always possible. It is a truly frustrating and painful condition. I had to take Motrin or Aleve every night just to get a few hours of sleep. Hang in there. It will get better eventually. Do the exercises daily and that will help alleviate some pain and speed up your recovery.

Should our 16-month-old get a flu shot?

Nov 2006

Flu season is upon us and my husband and I are concerned for the health and well being of our 16 mos. old daughter. While my husband and I have never believed in getting the vacinne ourselves, we question whether or not our daughter should have it. Can anyone give us sound advice on whether or not the flu shot is the best thing that we can do for our daughter? I have friends who believe in them and others who do not. We are confused.

Regarding the flu shot, our pediatrician explained to us that it's wiser for the adults (who have more social exposure) to get the flu shot to avoid infecting our young kids, rather than having the kids endure another shot flu free so far
Is your daughter ever around other kids? If not, then you are fine not getting her vaccinated. If your child has any contact with other kids, though, she can get the flu. My kids get flu shots because I know from personal experience that little kids get very, very sick when they get the flu, and I don't want them to go through that! This has nothing to do with belief - after you see a one-year-old with the flu, you will do everything in your power to prevent that happening again!
Check out this website: www.thinktwice.com One of their links (to the right side of their web page) talks about flu vaccines and how safe they are JOJ
The standard notion is that the flu shot is more important for infants and elderly because their immune systems are not as strong. That said, when my daughter was under 4, there were flu shot shortages every single year, and she never got one till this year. I would have if it were available, though
One thing to keep in mind for all shots for kids is that the vaccine/shot be ''Thimerisal Free.'' Thimerisal is a preservative, high in mercury. It has recently been banned in children's vaccines, but is sometimes still used in flu-shots (which are not child specific). There is some mixed evidence that Thimerisal Vaccines were linke to childhood autism. You can find an abundance of information on this on the web. Our pediatrician had thimerisal-free flu-shots last year which I got for all 3 of my young kids Anon
I get the flu shot every year without fail. I am a nurse so I get exposed to all kinds of stuff and don't want to bring bugs home to my little ones. That said I do not get the flu shot for my children (3 and 1.5 years) because my understanding is that the flu shot is one of the few vaccines that they still make with thimerosol (mercury) and that is believed, by many, to contribute to developmental problems, certainly thimerosol has gotten a lot of bad press. The other reason I don't feel comfortable giving the flu shot t my kids is that it is a live (attenuated) virus meaning that it is the actual virus but manipulated in a lab to render it less virulent - less likely to cause the flu. I don't the idea of giving live viruses to kids under two. To be clear I am very pro-vaccine. My kids get all their vaccinations even the MMR which is another live virus, but I think the schedule is really aggresive so, for example, my kids don't get the the MMR until they are two years old ilona
Someone posted this week about the flu shots, saying they contain a live, attenuated vaccine. This is NOT true. She may have confused it with the nasal spray flu vaccine, which is a live attenuated virus and for that reason is only given to kids age 5 and up. The shot is a dead virus and cannot give you the flu! But you shouldn't believe me -- any more than you should believe what the other poster said. Try these links to get the real scoop.

Here's what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has to say. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm

''The flu shot: The viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. Some minor side effects that could occur are Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given Fever (low grade) Aches''

''The ''flu shot''\x97an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle, usually in the arm. The flu shot is approved for use in people older than 6 months, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions.

The nasal-spray flu vaccine\x97a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu (sometimes called LAIV for \x93Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine\x94). LAIV is approved for use in healthy people 5 years to 49 years of age who are not pregnant.''

Also, the issue of thimerosal was raised. A limited number of thimerosal-free flu shots is available. To learn more, here's the CDS info page about it:


Get your shots! -- Dana

Flu shot for 7 month old? where?

Oct 2006

After much research I am still leaning towards getting a thimerosol-free flu shot for my 7 month old. Last flu-season when I was pregnant and healthy, I decided against a shot and ended up sick and in the emergency room (i also ended up with complications during pregnancy, which may or may not have been related) So I may be a little traumatized by the flu also... Because BPN members are so resourceful I wanted to post here to get other opinions. Also where are you getting the shots for your children? My docs office already went through their first batch and told me to try in Nov.. If she gets it, she'd need two doses a month apart and I'd rather not wait. Thanks

Contact the health department Immunization Branch: http://www.getimmunizedca.org You could also call the Berkeley Public Health Department. Good luck! Vaccinations are the safest, most effective medicines so far. anon

Flu shot for 6-month-old?

Nov 2005

We are trying to decide whether or not to give our 6-month-old baby a flu shot. There are really two issues here. The one of most concern is that our HMO uses a shot that has thimerasol in it. If it weren't for that, I think we would do it. There is also the issue of whether or not the little guy needs yet another shot, but our pediatrician--with whom we are very comfortable--recommends it in no uncertain terms. Does anyone have some good advice about this? Does anyone know of a place that offers the shot without the thimerasol? Thanks from a concerned new mom.

Concerned mom, As a mother myself, I realize vaccinations are always a difficult decision. It is wise to have caution when considering another injection for your baby, especially when the injection contains thimerasol. While the link between thimerasol and autism are controversial the potential certainly warrants a second thought. Some of the questions to ask yourself about whether your child would benefit from a flu shot would be to consider the following: 1 - How did his body respond to the previous vaccinations? Did he seem to have any adverse reactions? - If yes, then I would suggest another vaccine is not a good idea. 2- What is his exposure level? Is he with you and your partner all day? Is he at daycare where all the children seem to be ill? 3- How does he tolerate illnesses when he does get ill? Does his body seem to deal with them fairly quickly or do they drag on for a long time? 4- Are you doing anything else for his immune system during the cold and flu season? 5- Lastly, what would you do and how would you feel if he did catch the flu? After having the shot and/or not having the shot (since you are probably well aware that receiving the shot is certainly not a guarantee that he will not come down with the flu). Hope this helps, please feel free to contact me at my office (925) 939-0300 if I can be of further assistance in your decision making process, Dr. Anja Lindblad, Licensed ND
Thimerosol has a really bad reputation that I think is largely undeserved. The risk of developing problems from thimerosol is SO much lower than the risk of developing problems if the vaccine had some sort of contamination (thimerosol is a preservative), or the risk of developing serious problems from catching the flu at such a young age (i.e. higher risk of developing asthma). anon

Flu vaccine for infant w/o mercury

June 2004

Our 9 month old son's doctor has recommended that our son get the influenza vaccine later this year. She doesn't know if her office's batch will include thimerosal (sp.?), which contains mercury. I'd rather him get a mercury-free vaccine. Can anyone recommend a doctor, clinic or pharmacy that in the past has provided mercury-free influenza vaccines? Beth

From the research that I did before this past flu season, there is only one manufacturer that manufactures the thimerosal-free influenza vaccine; the vaccine is called ''Fluvirin''.

But, here's the thing, Fluvirin is NOT approved for use in Children 6 months - 4 years old.

Not that you asked, or anything, but if your child is not immuno-compromised, I'd skip the vaccine all together and be very diligent about washing hands instead. Jane

As for thimerosol, I just read in an extensive New York Times piece that no vaccines in this country contain it anymore, and haven't for around a year. Those vaccines were either used up already on American children or shipped out to developing countries :( lou
The July/August issue of Mothering Magazine has a cover article on flu vaccines and mercury content. To quote the article, ''In 1999 the FDA requested that vaccine manufacturers phase in a replacement for thimerosal, and they agreed to do so by 2001. However, no ban was enacted, and thimerosal remains in vaccines five years after the FDA recommendation.'' As for the flu vaccines, neither the CDC or AAP ''mentioned thimerosal at all in their public statements on the new flu vaccine recommendation.'' The article goes on to describes the limited choices on the market and their thimerosal content. Kim Lyons-Stuart, M.Ed., CMT
Contrary to some media reports, mercury *is* still used in a number of vaccines, most notably the flu vaccine. One or two manufacturers make a non-thimersol flu vaccine, but the supplies are limited. Ask your pediatrician to make sure they order the non-thimersol version. There's an excellent article in the current issue of Mothering Magazine on this topic. I highly recommend it.

The Times recently reported on a new study from (I believe) NYU that--for the first time---links autistic behavior in mice with high mercury levels. What was interesting about the study was it showed that only the mice with a particular genetic make-up were affected by the exposure. If further studies bear this out, it explains why some children develop autism/neurological damage from exposure and others do not. A concerned mom

Flu Shots for 9 month old?

Dec 2003

How necessary is it to vaccinate at this age, this year? (assuming we can even find the vaccine). The Grandparents are coming on hard with the Fox Evening News version (i.e. full-on panic), but I'm not convinced...However, I would hate to misjudge. What are the possible cons to the vaccine? Does it contain thimerosal (methyl mercury)? What about letting the child's immune system develop? Is the flu really worse this year than in years prior? Please help us sort out the madness!! Ezra's Daddy

I too recently faced this issue for my 2 and 5 y.o.s. I made the doc's appt. and then talked to him at length about it. In the end, I declined the shots. The decision is somewhat philosophical; yes, the shots do have thimerosol and other stuff; the kids have to get two shots/year until they are nine. Seems they already are getting enough stuff put into them (other vaccines, which I did do). Then there is the whole question of the media. Are we just hearing more about it because it came earlier this year and its a slow news night? Is it really a more virulent strain then before? Some claim yes, but there appears to be no evidence to back this up. So how can one really make an informed decision under pressure (no more shots, unless you go for FluMist which you can't becau! se the nasal spray is for 5 year olds and up). So in the end I decided no (and they told me I would not have another chance as they were out of vaccine). Of course the next day, the headline in the Comicle is about the 7 year old who died while cuddled up next to presents under the Christmas tree. So I am second guessing my decision. I think it comes down therefore to a philosophical question about how you treat. I believe this to be overtreatment as my kids aren't indicated as needing it. By the way, my pediatrician claims that the reason they recommend flu shots for the under two set is an economic one; kids under two who have high fevers, flu or not are usually hospitalized, thus costing a ton more money to the system. As I left the doctor's office, a neighbor was there and I told her I had declined the shots; she looked at me as if I was a lunatic and asked in a rather snippy way what the downside was... In the end, I'm not sure I made the right decision. Sorry, this may not help, but perhaps it will. Good luck Hilary
i realize the topic of vaccines/flu shots to be a very controversial issue- i have done much research in this arena-as a mom of a 15- month old and a chiropractor, i want to do the best for my child and also my patients- in my opinion,flu shots are ridiculous- they are basically guessing what this years flu will be based on last years flu- there is nothing wrong with getting the flu- it will make your immune system stronger-and if you have noticed-the people who are getting the flu, have gotten the flu shot! a great website to look at regarding this topic is www.thedoctorwithin.com- i know there will be pople who read this and may not agree with me at all,but on this topic i feel very strongly and need to voice my opinion- helaine
Because our daughter was premature, we were encouraged by our pediatrician to have her innoculated against the flu (last year when she was one, and now again that she is two). The respiratory symptoms of some severe strains of flu can be very harmful to children in higher-risk categories (asthma, history of resp. ailments), we're told. But this year we were given a choice between a thimerosal-preserved and thimerosal-free injection, and naturally chose the latter. Ask your pediatrician about it. In any case, our daughter has never suffered ill effects, and it's my impression that statistically the instance of severe side effects for most vaccines is very low compared to the instance of severe side effects from the illnesses they help prevent. But that's a hot-button issue for many people, and I don't want to start a conflagration! Opted for vaccination
Last year, I immunized myself & my 9 month old, and we got the shots again this year. This season's flu epidemic is being compared to the outbreak in 1918, which apparently killed more Americans that WWI. Of course, they didn't have flu shots or modern medicine then. This winter, your baby will most likely catch every cold s/he comes in contact with and have runny nose after cough after runny nose regardless of the flu shot. I think catching these colds is important to build a strong immune system, but I recommend saving yourself a lot of tough days and long nights by getting yourself and your child a flu shot so you only have to deal with the colds. Being a new parent is hard enough when they are healthy! BTW, you can't build antibodies to the flu because the strains change every year. Anon Mom