Flu vaccine update 2007

Once again, families across the nation are being admonished to get their kids flu shots.

Why do I feel a bit like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day”?

In past years, we’ve seen supply and demand fiascos, debates about preservatives and only one thing is crystal clear if you follow the mainstream media flu vaccine POV: lots of shots available, and not enough kids getting them. The CDC announced that 132 million doses should be available this winter, and all children ages 6 months to 5 years are highly recommended to get immunized. The problem? Most of the existing injectable flu vaccine supply still contains thimerosal, which at 25 mcg/0.5ml seriously exceeds the FDA regulation per weight for mercury exposure. And if you’re under 9 years old and getting a flu shot for the first time, guess what? You need two doses, a month apart. Parents should absolutely request preservative-free vaccine if they elect to give their kids the vaccine. The decision to routinely vaccinate young babies, under two years old, has been called into question by the findings of a Cochrane Database Systematic Review. Public health policy must be based on much more thorough investigation. This is essentially the point I made on Imus in the Morning last October when we faced the same overly simplistic media flu story cycle.

At least this year, parents who choose to immunize their children with flu vaccine have expanded preservative free options. The nasal FluMist, more effective than the injectable vaccine and tolerated well by most kids, is now approved for use in two year olds and up. Not all 3rd party payors are covering this more effective (and expensive) vaccine. So, once again, those children at highest risk – those in poverty, those without health insurance – are most likely to receive a less effective flu vaccine flush with thimerosal. It’s just not right.

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