Flu Vaccine for Preteens and Teens

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Fact Sheet for Parents

Note: For the 2016-2017 season, CDC recommends use of the flu shot (inactivated influenza vaccine or IIV) and the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV). The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) should not be used during 2016-2017. The 2016-2017 influenza vaccination recommendations are now available.


Why does my child need a flu vaccine?

There are many reasons to get your child a flu vaccine:

  • A flu shot can keep your child from getting sick with flu.
  • Influenza can be more serious than the common cold. It can lead to serious complications, including hospitalization or death. CDC estimates that since 2010, flu-related hospitalizations among children younger than 5 years have ranged from 7,000 to 26,000 in the United States.
  • Since 2004-2005, flu-related deaths in children reported to CDC during regular flu seasons have ranged from a low of 37 deaths (2011-2012) to 171 deaths (2012-2013).
  • Children, especially school-aged children, are more likely to catch the flu. Millions of children get sick with flu every season. A typical flu illness can mean missing a week or more of school. Once infected, children can spread the flu to parents and siblings, other family members, and friends.
  • Vaccinating your child protects people around them (like grandparents, babies or anyone with long-term health problems) who are more vulnerable to flu.
  • Children with certain long-term health conditions (like asthma or diabetes) and all children younger than 5 years are at high risk of serious illness when they get the flu.
  • Flu vaccine is not perfect. Some vaccinated people may still get sick, but if they do, flu vaccine may make their illness milder.
  • Flu vaccines are among the safest medical products in use. Hundreds of millions of people have safely gotten flu vaccines for more than 50 years. There may be mild side effects from getting vaccinated, but these are so much less of a problem than getting sick with the flu!


When should my child be vaccinated?

Preteens and teens are recommended to get a yearly flu vaccine, by the end of October, if possible. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue throughout the flu season, even in January or later. Flu vaccine is available in many places, including doctor’s offices or clinics, and sometimes local health departments, pharmacies, urgent care clinics, grocery stores, and schools. Find a place near you to get a flu vaccine and other recommended vaccines with the HealthMap vaccine finderexternal icon.


What else should I know about the flu vaccine?

CDC recommends use of flu shots during 2016-2017. Flu shots include inactivated vaccines that are made with killed flu virus, and a recombinant vaccine which is made without flu viruses. While there is a nasal spray vaccine that is FDA approved for the U.S. market, ACIP and CDC recommend that nasal spray vaccine should not be used during the 2016-2017 season because of concerns about how well it works. The 2016-2017 influenza vaccination recommendations are now available.

Talk to your child’s doctor or other health care professional about getting a flu vaccine.


Are flu vaccines safe?

Flu vaccines are among the safest medical products in use. Hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu vaccines over the past 50 years, and there has been extensive research supporting the safety of seasonal flu vaccines. The flu vaccine cannot cause the flu.  Annual flu vaccination is recommended for preteens and teens by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.


What side effects can we expect from a flu shot?

Many people don’t have any side effects from a flu shot, but some people do. Flu vaccine side effects are general mild and go away on their own within a few days. The more common side effects from flu shots include soreness, redness, and/or swelling from the shot, headache, fever, muscle aches, or nausea. Serious side effects from either type of flu vaccine are rare. If your preteen or teen has a severe allergy to chicken eggs or any of the ingredients in the vaccine, it’s important to talk to your child’s doctor.


How can I get help paying for these vaccines?

The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program provides vaccines free of charge to children ages 18 years and younger who are uninsured, Medicaid-eligible, American Indian or Alaska Native. You can find out more about the VFC program by going online to CDC and typing VFC in the search box.


Where can I learn more?

Talk to your child’s doctor or nurse to learn more about the flu and the other vaccines your child may need.

For more about the flu and get answers to all your questions, visit the CDC Flu website. To learn about who should and should not get this vaccine, when they should be vaccinated, and the risks and benefits of this vaccine, consult the two flu vaccine information statements.

If you have an infant or younger children in your household, you’ll want to learn why you and your teen should get vaccinated to protect them. See Children, the Flu, and the Flu Vaccine.

To find a clinic near you, consult the Flu Vaccine Finderexternal icon.


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Page last reviewed: October 11, 2016