“Influenza”, commonly known as “flu”, is a highly contagious disease with symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, chills, joint and muscle pain, stomach symptoms, headache and extreme tiredness. It is caused by a virus that spreads mainly by coughing, sneezing and close contact. The virus can also be spread indirectly when your child touches a surface with flu virus on it (e.g., a toy) and touches his or her nose or mouth.
Why vaccinate? Flu is usually worse than the common cold. Your child may spend a few days in bed recovering. It can lead to life-threatening complications such as pneumonia, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). Other associated complications include bronchitis, sinusitis and middle ear infection.
Who is more likely to develop complications from flu?
Does flu vaccine protect against all types of flu? Flu vaccine does not protect against all other viruses that cause flu-like symptoms or the common cold. It is still important to maintain good personal hand hygiene and habits. This includes sneezing or coughing into a tissue and disposing of them correctly, avoiding contact with sick people, wearing a mask and self-isolation when unwell, keeping your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth, and washing hands regularly with soap and water, especially after going to the toilet and before eating. The vaccine takes approximately two weeks to provide protection. Any flu that your child encounters during this time is likely from exposure to flu from the community and not from the vaccine.
What does the flu vaccination involve? Only children ≥ 6 months old are eligible for the vaccine. This involves a single injection into the arm or thigh. However, younger children from 6 months to 9 years old who are getting the vaccine for the first time will need two doses during a single flu season. As the flu virus is always changing, a new vaccine is made every 6 months to protect against strains that are likely to cause disease
in the upcoming season. Six-monthly to yearly vaccination is required to provide up-to-date protection.
What are the benefits of flu vaccine? Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalisations and deaths. If there is a good match between the vaccine virus and the circulating virus strain, a flu vaccine is 40% to 60% effective in preventing infection. Even when the vaccine does not exactly match these viruses, it may still provide some protection against serious complications.
Flu vaccination helps protect women during pregnancy and their babies for up to six months after they are born.
What are the side effects of flu vaccine? The side effects of flu vaccine are mild, compared to the disease itself. Soreness and redness at the injection site are most common. Your child may also complain of headache, muscle aches, fever or tiredness. These symptoms usually last for a day or two after the vaccination as it starts to work in the body.
does not cause flu as this is a killed/ inactivated vaccine. There may be a tiny risk of Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS – a condition that affects the nerves and presents with weakness in the legs) after the flu vaccine. However, GBS may also be acquired from flu infection. Studies show that a person is more likely to get GBS from a flu infection than a flu vaccination.
The flu vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines. However, young children who get the flu vaccine along with pneumococcal vaccine, and/or DTaP vaccine at the same time may be slightly more likely to have a seizure (fit) caused by fever.
All vaccines are assessed to be safe by the Health Sciences Authority and millions of people all over the world have received flu vaccines safely for decades.
When to vaccinate? Singapore typically has two peak flu seasons every year: April to July and November to January. A six monthly or yearly vaccination before the peak flu season is recommended.
Where can you get the vaccine? The influenza vaccine is available at KKH, any polyclinic or general practitioner’s clinic. It can also be provided during your routine healthcare visit.
Please consult your healthcare provider for more information.
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