Are flu shots safe for babies?

Q: Our pediatrician recommended the flu shot for our baby. Is it safe?

A: The number of vaccines recommended for infants can be overwhelming to new parents, especially since they start at birth. But getting a flu shot is perfectly safe for babies 6 months and older. In fact, research shows that the risks associated with a baby contracting the flu are far worse than any side effects that may occur as a result of the shot. Babies who catch the flu get pneumonia at higher rates than older children and can become dehydrated more easily. Many end up hospitalized as a result. Although flu-related deaths are very rare, a small number of children each year do die from flu complications. So you should definitely have your baby vaccinated. If you're worried about thimerosal (a mercury-based preservative) in flu shots, allow us to set the record straight on this controversial issue. First, many flu shots no longer contain thimerosal, so ask your pediatrician about mercury-free vaccines. What's more, study after study continues to disprove any link between thimerosal in vaccines and autism in children.

Originally published in the October 2006 issue of Child magazine.