The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urge everyone, including children over 6 months of age, to receive the annual vaccine against influenza or flu.
The flu vaccine is even more important during the 2020-2021 flu season to keep the health system busy with the coronavirus epidemic from becoming overwhelmed. Two-thirds of nearly 2,000 American parents surveyed said they plan to get their child a flu shot this year, according to the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital for Child Health in Michigan.
But how about parents who usually don't get a flu shot for their child? Are you following the advice of the CDC? Medical Daily spoke to two parents who stand by their decision not to give their child the annual flu vaccine.
E.L. told Medical Daily that her 12-year-old son is not getting a flu shot. A few years ago she was advised by his pediatrician that "he would be better off just getting (the flu) alone and building that immunity".
M.P. still has 3 children aged 15, 11 and 2 at home and while not a vaccine she has strong feelings for the annual flu vaccine. "People should be able to choose what to put in their bodies," said M.P. said.
Robert Ferrall, MD, a North Carolina pediatrician, told Medical Daily that he doesn't see parents opting out of the flu shot for their child if they've had the flu shot in recent years. But Medical Daily spoke to a mother who had decided not to vaccinate her 22-month-old child this year. R. H. questions the effectiveness of the flu vaccine and said, "We pass the flu vaccine on because we don't leave the house."
On the other hand, Medical Daily also spoke to some parents who make sure their children get the vaccine even if they didn't get one last year.
J.T. said their boys, ages 10 and 14, didn't get a flu shot last year. She tried to visit two pharmacies, but one was closed and the other had a long line for the vaccine. After those options failed, it "just wasn't done," she said. J.T. plans to work harder this year to get their children vaccinated. She feels that if her youngsters get the flu this year, they may be more likely to get the COVID-19 virus.
J.W. talked about how hard it is to get flu vaccinations for her 5 children, ages 7-16. Last year she and her husband got their flu shots at work, but J.W. couldn't get all of the kids to the doctor's office at the same time, so some of them missed the vaccine. Determined to have all of her children vaccinated this year, she says, "I don't want them to get the flu on top of COVID."
S.O.'s family, including their newborn and 2-year-old son, have been in isolation since the pandemic began. She told Medical Daily, "I … never really worried about the flu vaccine until I had kids." Her son got the flu vaccine last year, and she plans to have it again this year. If the flu persists when her newborn is 6 months old, she will make sure he gets the flu vaccine too.
Advice from a pediatrician
How many parents who decided last year not to have their child vaccinated change their minds? Only 28% according to the results of the Mott survey.
Dr. Ferrall said his clinic has seen little increase in flu vaccinations in children who have not received the vaccine in the past. If a quarter of these children were vaccinated, "I would be pretty happy," he said. "I know it seems low … but it would help."
"While we don't have a coronavirus vaccine yet, we have a perfectly good flu vaccine. If we can keep influenza under control, it will … help kids stay healthy," said Dr. Ferrall. Because symptoms of influenza and coronavirus can be similar, children with flu symptoms must be screened for both viruses and then isolated until it is known whether they have COVID-19.
Dr. Ferrall would also like to remind parents that when schools reopen, children are more likely to "transmit infections like influenza and COVID". While everyone is talking about COVID right now, there are certainly other infections out there, and influenza is a very serious infection that may be preventable (with a vaccine). "
The take away
According to the CDC, the flu vaccine is even more important during the 2020-2021 flu season to keep the health system from becoming overwhelmed. If you have any concerns about getting the flu vaccine for your child, it is worth talking to your pediatrician. The CDC recommends that everyone get the flu shot before the end of October, although you can get it anytime during the flu season.