Why vaccinating your child against flu is more important this year
While the COVID-19 pandemic remains foremost in most people’s minds, pediatricians are stressing the importance of the flu vaccine for children six months and older this year.
“Since there was very little flu around last year, there is concern the flu season could be more severe this year because there is no natural immunity,” said Sharon Daley, MD, a pediatrician with Seaside Pediatrics in West Yarmouth.
“Every other year, we do see lots of children who do get the flu,” she said. “Most of them don’t need to be in the hospital but they are a source of infection for adults, especially senior citizens.”
According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, flu infection rates are highest among children, approximately 20-30 percent annually. It is estimated 20,000 children under the age of five are hospitalized every year due to flu complications.
While we were all wearing masks last year that helped to prevent the spread of infection, Dr. Daley said that is only part of the story because last year children were not attending school and people were extremely cautious about being in public.
This year, students are back in school fulltime and even though they are wearing masks, they are doing group activities again.
Flu and COVID-19 Vaccine Recommendations
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in their official 2021-2022 influenza policy statement recommends everyone age six months and older get vaccinated with the flu vaccine. It also allows for co-administration with COVID-19 vaccines for ages that can receive the vaccine, which right now is 12 and up.
“We are encouraging all 12-year-olds and teens to get the COVID-19 vaccine (in addition to flu vaccine),” said Dr. Daley. “They are safe and effective.”
Dr. Daley also urges the parents of younger children who can’t yet receive the COVID-19 vaccine, to get immunized with the flu and COVID-19 vaccines to help protect those children.
The AAP is recommending children have their flu shots by the end of October, before influenza starts circulating in the community. The flu vaccine doesn’t seem to wear off in children as it does for adults, said Dr. Daley. For adults and seniors, there is sometimes a concern that the flu vaccine won’t last the season if they are vaccinated too early.
“While the goal is to get the children immunized more quickly, if they don’t get it by the end of October, it’s never too late to get it,” she said.
For those who may be concerned about their child receiving flu and COVID vaccines simultaneously, the symptoms of a possible reaction are very similar. There may experience mild reactions such as sore arm at injection site, malaise, or mild fever, said Dr. Daley.
Keeping Your Child in School
There are strict guidelines for COVID testing in schools and those with any respiratory symptoms must test negative before they can return, said Dr. Daley. “If kids get the flu vaccine, they are less likely to get the flu, less likely to get sick and won’t have to have multiple COVID tests to return to school. We really want to keep kids in school and healthy.”
For parents who don’t have the opportunity to have their child receive the flu vaccine at their pediatrician’s office, the Cape Cod Healthcare pharmacies are offering them to patients three years and older.
The hours at the Cape Cod Hospital pharmacy located in the lobby are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m.-8 p.m., and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on the weekends. The Falmouth Hospital pharmacy offers flu vaccinations Monday through Friday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Appointments can be made for both locations by calling 508-957-8600.