Does Your Child Really Need a Flu Shot?

Many people wonder whether their children really need a flu shot. If they are generally healthy kids, why go through the hassle of getting another shot, right? Unfortunately, not only is this thinking wrong, it could potentially endanger your child. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized because of the flu every year. Kids are at high risk for complications from the flu, especially children under 5.

Child getting a vaccination
JGI / Tom Grill/Blend Images / Getty Images

Quick Facts

  • Kids between 6 months and 18 years old need a flu shot every year.
  • Parents, close contacts (anyone who lives with them) and out of home caregivers of children under age 5 should also have a flu shot. This is especially important for those who care for kids under 6 months old.
  • Children six months to 9 years who are receiving the flu shot for the first time need to receive two doses. The first dose introduces the virus and the second dose provides immunity. The doses must be given one month apart. The vaccine becomes effective two weeks after the second dose is given.

Other Kids That Need Flu Shots

Any child age 6 months to 18 years with chronic health problems, including:

  • Asthma or other lung problems
  • Weak immune systems
  • Chronic kidney disease or problems
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Sickle cell anemia or other blood disorders
  • Long-term aspirin therapy
  • Any condition that makes breathing difficult

What Else You Should Know

  1. Kids age 2 to 5 years are more likely to be taken to the doctor or emergency room because of the flu.
  2. Kids are the biggest spreaders of the flu. Because they don’t typically practice good hand hygiene and are exposed to many other people, children share the flu germs very easily. Vaccination helps reduce the chances of a flu epidemic.
  3. Just because it is getting late into the season, doesn’t mean it is too late to get a flu shot.
  4. The best way to protect children under 6 months old from the flu is for all members of the household and all caregivers to get a flu shot.
  5. Don’t forget the unborn children! Pregnant women are considered high risk for complications from the flu and should have a flu shot if they will be pregnant during the flu season.
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Article Sources
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  3. Patria MF, Tagliabue C, Longhi B, Esposito S. Influenza vaccination in children at high risk of respiratory disease. Ther Adv Vaccines. 2013;1(1):21-31. doi:10.1177/2051013613480770

  4. Verger P, Bocquier A, Vergélys C, Ward J, Peretti-watel P. Flu vaccination among patients with diabetes: motives, perceptions, trust, and risk culture - a qualitative survey. BMC Public Health. 2018;18(1):569. doi:10.1186/s12889-018-5441-6

  5. Yudin MH. Risk management of seasonal influenza during pregnancy: current perspectives. Int J Womens Health. 2014;6:681-9. doi:10.2147/IJWH.S47235

Additional Reading
  • "Children and the Flu Vaccine." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 06 Nov 06. US Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.