When infants can get the flu shot

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  • Your infant is eligible for their first flu shot once they're 6 months old.
  • Many children who are getting their flu shot for the first time will need two injections.
  • In 2019, the Food and Drug Administration approved a higher dose of Fluzone Quadrivalent — an ingredient in the flu vaccine. Read on to learn more.
  • This article was reviewed by Tania Elliott, MD, who specializes in infectious diseases related to allergies and immunology for internal medicine at NYU Langone Health
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

If your infant is at least 6 months old, then they're eligible for their first flu shot, and it's important that they get it.

"Infants are proven more likely to be hospitalized or die from influenza illness, so all infants eligible for the vaccine should receive it," says Charisma Garcia, MD, a pediatrician with the Center for Children and Women at Texas Children's Health Plan.

Children between 6 months to 8 years old getting their first flu vaccine will need two injections spaced at least four weeks apart. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that if your child needs two doses of flu vaccine, you should time the doses so that they receive their second dose at the end of October. 

Once your child reaches 2 years of age, they are eligible for the nasal-spray vaccine in place of the shot, although the spray hasn't been as effective in the past as the shot in children. And with flu strains and vaccines changing from year to year, Garcia recommends that parents follow expert advice.

"Every new flu season check with your pediatrician for the latest recommended formulation," Garcia says.

In 2019, the Food and Drug Administration approved a recent change to flu vaccines for children 6 to 35 months of age.

The recommended dose of Fluzone Quadrivalent — an ingredient in the flu vaccine — for children went from 0.25 milliliters to either 0.25 milliliters or 0.5 milliliters per dose. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): "There is no preference for one or the other dose volume for this age group."

When you're infant is too young to get the flu shot

There are no vaccine products approved for infants younger than 6 months, which means parents must take extra care to protect their infant from infection. 

The best way to protect your newborn is to make sure everyone who will be close by is vaccinated. But there are also measures that the mother can take before giving birth.

While she's still pregnant, mom should get a flu shot because the antibodies she builds up can pass through the placenta and provide months of immunity for her infant after birth.

Possible side effects from the flu shot

After vaccination, infants and children will sometimes experience minor side effects such as redness and soreness at the injection site, fever, and aches. These symptoms are normal and a sign your kid's immune system is working properly.

It's also normal if your child ends up catching the flu, even though they've been vaccinated. It's less common, but in a given season, the flu vaccine is usually 40 to 60% effective. This means they have a 40 to 60% chance of getting sick with the flu if they are exposed to it.

But that doesn't mean you should avoid getting your child vaccinated. "The vaccine reduces the risk of severe morbidity from influenza by three-fourths," Garcia adds. 

So your best bet to protect your child against the flu is getting them vaccinated and practicing proper hygiene techniques like hand washing and sanitizing toys.

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