Flu shots can be a hot button issue in parenting circles, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is absolutely unequivocal in its recommendation given the pandemic. "It is more important than ever for everyone over 6 months old to be vaccinated," the AAP said in a statement. The CDC, too, recommends kids over 6 months get immunized.
And yet, a new national poll has found that 1 in 3 parents are not planning to get their kids the flu shot this year—a statistic that's got many pediatricians worried.
A major flu outbreak amidst the coronavirus pandemic is a terrifyingly real possibility.
"As a pediatrician, I am very concerned about the health of children and their families this fall if these two potentially deadly viruses are circulating in the community at the same time," said Dr. Flor Munoz, the lead author of the AAP's recommendations.
Sarah Clark is a research scientist in the department of pediatrics at the University of Michigan and co-director of the poll by the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital. "We may see peaks of flu and COVID-19 at the same time, which could overwhelm the health care system, strain testing capacity and potentially reduce our ability to catch and treat both respiratory illnesses effectively," says Clark.
She continues: "Our report finds that even during the pandemic, some parents don't see the flu vaccine as more urgent or necessary. This heightens concerns about how the onset of flu season may compound challenges in managing COVID-19."
The timetable for a coronavirus vaccine may be unknown—but scheduling a flu shot is something you can do right now to help your kids, your family, and your community stay safe this fall and winter. Heeding the recommendation can help avoid unnecessary suffering and even death—and it's on parents to get it done.
Nearly a third of parents who say their child won't get a flu vaccine this year cite concerns about side effects or a belief that it isn't necessary or effective. But experts, including Clark, say these are misconceptions. "There is a lot of misinformation about the flu vaccine, but it is the best defense for children against serious health consequences of influenza and the risk of spreading it to others."