By Edie Jeffers, Communications Manage
TACOMA – Is your child ready to fight the flu? The Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone 6 months and older get an annual influenza immunization. But only about 49 percent of children in Washington State ages 5-12 received influenza immunization last season.
“Ensuring that our children are ready to fight the flu helps the entire community to be healthier,” said Nigel Turner, division director of Communicable Disease Control at Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. Turner says it is especially important to vaccinate school children because:
- Young children can become very sick with influenza.
- The flu vaccine works better in children than in any other age group.
- Children in school are at high risk for catching the flu because they gather in large groups and tend to share germs.
- Children can bring home influenza to infants or grandparents who are more at risk for complications of the flu.
When more children receive an annual flu immunization, they have a better chance of avoiding influenza over the school year, and the school may fare better throughout the flu season. “High levels of immunization can decrease influenza circulation at the building level, which can potentially prevent a school-wide influenza outbreak. In high activity influenza seasons, it is not unusual to see school absenteeism of up to 20 percent or more locally,” said Turner.
In 2012, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department sponsored flu vaccinations clinics in more than 15 elementary schools, providing vaccination to 1,200 school children in Tacoma and Pierce County. This year, the health department will offer flu shot clinics at elementary schools in the Tacoma and Clover Park school districts.
Most children can receive nasal spray (Flu Mist). Some children who have asthma, diabetes or other medical conditions need a flu shot. For more information about the flu, including links to free- and low-cost vaccine resources, visit www.tpchd.org/flu.
Partners who help administer the vaccine include Mary Bridge Children’s Mobile Immunization Services, Pierce County Medical Reserve Corps, Franciscan Children’s immunization services and Pacific Lutheran University School of Nursing.