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Tips for Speaking with Parents about Flu Vaccine

How to Address Common Concerns

Medical Providers: Use the talking points below to help you address common flu vaccine concerns among parents. 

“I heard the flu shot can give you the flu.”

  • Flu vaccines are made with killed or weakened viruses that cannot give you the flu.
  • Sometimes the body’s immune response after vaccination can make some people feel a little ill, and that’s normal.
    For example, some kids may get a slight fever, but that’s
  • their body building antibodies to protect them from flu

“My child got vaccinated last year and still got sick.”

  • Many other germs cause symptoms similar to flu–your child might have caught one of them.
  • Flu vaccine takes 2 weeks to work. Your child may have caught flu/a virus before developing immunity.
  • Flu vaccines are not 100% effective. However, even if your child catches the flu, the illness will be much less severe.

“Flu vaccine is not effective. Why bother?”

  • Flu is very serious and can cause pneumonia, hospitalization, and death.
  • Without the flu vaccine, your child has zero added protection if he/she gets exposed. It’s not worth the risk. Healthy children who were vaccinated lowered their chance of dying from flu by 65%. That’s pretty remarkable.
  • A recent study suggests that flu vaccine protected most kids against severe disease even when the vaccine wasn’t a perfect match for the virus.

“My child is healthy and doesn’t need a flu shot.”

  • Flu viruses mutate constantly, changing yearly.
  • Every year, healthy kids who have never caught the flu before, suddenly get it.
  • Flu can spread easily at school, while playing with friends, or being out in the community.
  • I got my flu shot. I also immunized my kids. As your doctor/nurse, I want your family to also be
  • Scarlet died from flu complications at age 5; to her mother’s regret, she was not vaccinated. Watch Scarlet’s Story and share with clinic staff and parents.

“I’m concerned about side effects.”

  • Vaccines, like any medication, can cause side effects. Most flu effects are mild, e.g., pain or redness in the arm.
  • This should go away quickly. If you have any concerns after getting vaccinated, please call us.

“I don’t want vaccines with thimerosal/mercury”

  • Most flu vaccine is thimerosal-free.
  • For kids under 3: you’ll be getting the vaccine without any thimerosal. Flu vaccine with or without thimerosal is safe and effective.
  • If parents are still concerned, you can show this 3 minute video: Is there Mercury in Vaccines? by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

“The flu is just like a bad cold—it’s not serious.”

  • Flu viruses are not the same as a cold. When a person catches the flu, they often have a fever and body aches; most also have to miss days of work or school. When complications set in, flu can be life-threatening. While babies, pregnant women, those with certain health conditions, and seniors are at highest risk, even healthy children can die from flu.
  • Last year Flu sent 4 million Americans to the doctor 100,000 were hospitalized and 5,000 people died, including 43 children.

“My child is afraid of needles.”

  • If available, offer the LAIV (nasal spray) flu vaccine.
  • Let younger children sit in their parents’ laps; practice distraction techniques. Suggest the parent bring a favorite snack, book or toy for comfort.
  • Allow an older child to listen to music and ask them to take deep breaths.
  • Reassure the parent and their child so they keep calm, and be honest about the pinch.
  • Be supportive and offer praise. You can say: “I know you seemed worried about your visit today, but you did it! I’m so proud of you for being so brave! Maybe it will even get a little easier next time.

“I don’t care so much about flu since COVID-19.”

  • Flu and COVID are both unpredictable and can be very serious. I recommend vaccination against both. If your child needs a COVID vaccine or booster, it’s safe, effective and convenient to get both vaccines today.