Reader Question: Is it really necessary to give my 18-month-old son a flu shot? I'm concerned because I've heard that it contains mercury.
On Call Response: Yes, your son needs a flu shot; the first time he gets it, he'll actually need two doses (given a month apart) to "prime" his immune system. The CDC recommends that all children 6 to 18 months get vaccinated because they're considered a high-risk group. Each year, more than 20,000 children are hospitalized with flu-related complications. (To protect your son, you and anyone else in close with him should be vaccinated as well.)
The good news is that you don't have to expose your son to mercury if you don't want to. While many flu vaccines contain thimerosol (which has some mercury), there is a new version of the vaccine, called Fluzone, which does not contain mercury or any other preservatives. If you have a strong preference, tell your pediatrician that you want your son to get the mercury-free vaccine.
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