DURHAM, N.C. — Babies are born year-round, including flu season, but the flu virus poses life-threatening risks for them – and they're too young for the flu vaccine.
That's why one hospital is working to vaccinate newborns' family members.
Kiera Clerk was born at Durham Regional Hospital about a month ago. That was when doctors learned Kiera's mom, Jackie, had not had a flu shot.
“I actually thought I couldn't get a flu shot this year because I was getting ready to start nursing, so I didn't realize that I could do that,” Jackie Clerk said.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers pregnant women to be at high risk for the flu. In this country, however, approximately 15 percent get the vaccine.
Because newborns can't be vaccinated, the CDC recommends family members of newborns get the shot.
“But the question really comes out, how feasible is it to do that and how successful and how's the best way to implement that recommendation,” notes Dr. Emmanuel Walter, a pediatrician at Durham Regional Hospital.
Walter is leading a study in which family members are vaccinated before a newborn leaves the hospital. That's when Kiera's mom and dad got their shots.
Since it was 2-year-old big sister Alexis' first flu vaccine, she has to get a second shot, one month after the first.
Walter says the best result they've seen so far is the number of dads, like Holt Clerk, getting vaccinated.
“We're glad to do it. I'm not big on needles, but it was painless,” Holt Clerk said.
So now the Clerks can go home, with fewer worries over Kiera.
“She's been doing great. She's got a great big sister to look after her,” their mom said.
The peak of flu season typically begins in February and runs through May. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become effective, so there's still time to get immunized for this year.