A new requirement for New York City children attending day-care or preschool programs to get a flu shot is a healthy dose of reality for parents, says a New York pediatrician. Last year, there were more than 100 flu-related deaths of young children reported nationwide.
“This is a great idea. All our kids should be vaccinated against the flu, there’s no reason not to,” said Minu George, MD, interim chief of the division of General Pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York.
“The flu can make you very ill, it’s not the same as the common cold. It starts off with cold-like symptoms and fever, but it can make you very sick and has lots of complications.”
The city joins New Jersey and Connecticut in requiring the vaccination for youngsters attending licensed day-care centers and preschools.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 70 percent of children aged 6 months to 4 years were vaccinated against the flu last year. Young children and the elderly are the most at risk for the flu, which can lead to hospitalizations and death.
With the recent death of a New Jersey youngster from enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), Dr. George has fielded many inquiries from parents about whether the flu shot can help prevent the respiratory virus. It can’t, she said.
“There isn’t a vaccination for the enterovirus,” said Dr. George. “The enterovirus is a different virus than the flu.”
Dr. George urges parents to teach their children to help prevent contracting EV-D68 by washing their hands very carefully and avoiding their eyes, nose and mouth if their hands are dirty.