HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR A CHILD, PARTICULARLY AN INFANT, TO RECEIVE A THIMEROSAL-FREE FLU SHOT?

Thimerosal, composed of ethyl mercury, is a compound used as a preservative in vaccines. Ethyl mercury is quickly eliminated by the body and DOES NOT cause mercury poisoning. Mercury poisoning is caused by methyl mercury, a compound that does build up in the body and can result in damage to the nervous system and brain. So, while the two types of mercury sound similar, they are very different. Thimerosal has not been shown to be toxic. But thimerosal has been removed from vaccines whenever possible. Currently, flu vaccine is the only childhood vaccine that contains thimerosal, and there are typically more than an adequate number of thimerosal-free doses of flu vaccine produced for children each year. Also, even when it was present in vaccines, the total amount of thimerosal containing mercury received by an infant was less than half the amount of mercury a baby receives from its mother if breast fed for six months. When looking only at flu shots, breastfed babies receive 25 times more mercury in the breast milk than they would from a flu shot. As of 2019, approximately 85% of the flu vaccine produced is thimerosal-free.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE FLU AND COVID-19?

Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2) and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis. Flu and COVID-19 share many characteristics, but there are some key differences between the two.

Does a flu vaccine increase your risk of getting COVID-19?

There is no evidence that getting a flu vaccine increases your risk of getting sick from a coronavirus, like the one that causes COVID-19. You may have heard about a study published in January 2020 that reported an association between flu vaccination and risk of four commonly circulating seasonal coronaviruses, but not the one that causes COVID-19. This report was later found to be incorrect.

Why do I need to get a flu shot every year?

A flu vaccine is needed every season for two reasons. First, a person’s immune protection from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection. Second, because flu viruses are constantly changing, flu vaccines may be updated from one season to the next to protect against the viruses that research suggests may be most common during the upcoming flu season. For the best protection, everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated annually. This flu season, the AAP recommends everyone receives the vaccine by October 31, 2020.

What are the benefits of flu vaccination?

The flu vaccine can keep you from getting sick from the flu and can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization for children, working age adults, and older adults. Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions. Flu vaccination has been shown in several studies to reduce severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick. Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you.

How effective is the flu vaccine?

CDC conducts studies each year to determine how well the influenza (flu) vaccine protects against flu illness. While vaccine effectiveness can vary, recent studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well-matched to the flu vaccine.

Can the flu shot give you the flu?

While a flu vaccine cannot give you flu illness, there are different side effects that may be associated with getting a flu shot or a nasal spray flu vaccine. These side effects are mild and short-lasting, especially when compared to symptoms of bad case of flu. The AAP has stated no preference this year between the nasal spray flu vaccine and flu shot.