Parents have so much going on right now (as ever). But the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends adding one more task to your growing to-do list: Getting the flu vaccine for your kids (and yourself) by the end of October.
According to the AAP, every child over 6 months old should get the flu shot before Halloween this year to prevent a potential twin pandemic of COVID-19 and influenza. Data from the CDC shows that 90% of fatal influenza cases in kids occur in children who didn't get a flu shot.
Children between the ages of 2 and 5 are at a higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications.
"As we continue to face another year of the COVID-19 pandemic, timely influenza vaccination of all persons 6 months of age and older is a priority this year," said Flor M. Munoz, M.D., M.Sc., FAAP, a lead author of the AAP recommendations. "This is particularly important for anyone who has medical conditions that increase the risk for complications for both influenza and COVID-19, including children."
If your child is over age 3, you can walk into many pharmacies for a shot. If your child is under age 3, book an appointment with your child's pediatrician, as the vaccine options differ for the under 3/over 3 age groups.
The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) urges parents to get proactive by having their child get a flu shot as soon as possible, before the end of October—but it will still be effective even if you get the shot after Halloween. The reason for the rush? Though flu cases are low in number at this point, it takes a full two weeks for the body to build up antibodies to the influenza virus. It's a smart idea to have antibody support in place before case numbers start potentially increasing this winter.
By taking steps to book appointments before Halloween, parents can make sure their children are protected when flu season typically ramps up in November and as the pandemic continues.
AAP and the CDC say the flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccine can be administered simultaneously. But as we're still waiting on shots to become available for kids under 12—with no guarantee they'll be here before Halloween—don't wait until that point to get your child's flu shot.
"While COVID-19 mitigation measures appear to have played a major role in the very low numbers of influenza cases this season, every season can be unpredictable and we don't know what will happen this coming fall and winter. That is why it is still important that everyone receive a flu vaccine every year," says AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases Chair Yvonne A. Maldonado, M.D., FAAP.
Pregnant women are also considered a vulnerable population when it comes to flu. The AAP recommends pregnant women receive the vaccine, which passes immunity onto the baby.
"Pregnant women should receive [the flu shot] at any time during pregnancy to protect themselves and their infants. Women in the postpartum period who did not receive vaccination during pregnancy should receive influenza vaccine before hospital discharge. Influenza vaccination during breastfeeding is safe for mothers and their infants," state the AAP recommendations. Vaccination against flu during pregnancy is especially important for protecting your infant once born, as babies aren't eligible for vaccination until 6 months of age.
This year's flu vaccine is quadrivalent, meaning it will include four flu strains. Check with your child's pediatrician to figure out which licensed, age-appropriate vaccine is right for your child.
A version of this post was originally published October 17, 2018. It has been updated.