As summer memories fade and kids settle into their back-to-school routines (whatever that may look like), getting a flu vaccination should be at the top of your family’s to-do list this fall.
But many families are wondering if it’s even necessary to get the flu shot this year because of all the extra safety precautions we’re already doing to keep us safe — wearing face masks and coverings in public, social distancing and washing, sanitizing our hands frequently. Is it even safe to go out in public to get one, risking exposure to COVID-19?
“We believe these extra precautions will have a beneficial impact on the transmission of flu, but I’m a big fan of using all the tools in my toolkit,” said Dr. Eric Robinette, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Akron Children’s. “The flu vaccine is a proven way to reduce serious complications from the flu, and it’s one more simple tool to protect us from respiratory illness this winter.”
Dr. Robinette and medical experts alike believe both the flu virus and COVID-19 — a twindemic — could be running rampant this season. That’s why the flu shot this year is more important than ever before and everyone 6 months and older should get one.
Influenza activity often begins to increase in October and peaks between December and February. So, the best time to receive the flu vaccine is in September and October, before influenza activity begins to increase.
Your child’s pediatrician office, pharmacies and other vaccination locations following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines should be a safe place to receive the flu vaccine. Doctor offices, including Akron Children’s, have always practiced strict infection-control procedures, and now they are making even more changes to help keep patients and staff safe amidst a continuing pandemic.
So while it might be tempting to skip or put off the flu vaccine this year, there are many reasons why it’s very important that you don’t. Find out why Dr. Robinette is urging families this year more than ever to get their flu shot. It not only protects your kids and family, but also your community and beyond.
Protects your child from influenza
Catching the flu can be dangerous to you and your family’s health. Flu can be a serious illness, especially for high-risk kids, including infants and those with chronic conditions, such as asthma. Even in healthy children, the flu has been shown to cause serious complications, such as pneumonia.
Getting the flu vaccine can help keep your child from getting sick with the flu, reduce the severity and length of the illness if she does get it and reduce her risk for a flu-associated hospitalization or even death.
In addition, the vaccine can help protect against exposing your vulnerable family and friends, such as grandparents and infants, to the flu.
Not to mention, if your child is already sick with the flu, it can weaken her immune system and make her more susceptible to COVID-19. Her body may not be able to fight off COVID-19 as easily as it would otherwise, especially if her lungs are still recovering from the flu.
“We believe, based on data, our flu vaccine campaign prevents at least a hundred hospitalizations, hundreds of doctor visits and thousands of missed days of school,” said Dr. Robinette. “In the grand scheme of things, the flu shot, although it’s not always a perfect match, makes a big difference in the health of the population.”
Reduces risk of co-infection
The flu shot also can reduce your child’s risk for a co-infection because it is possible to catch both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Though they are both contagious respiratory illnesses, different viruses cause them — and having both at the same time can be devastating, no matter how healthy your child is.
“We don’t know how having multiple respiratory viruses would play out; we haven’t seen how the viruses interact with each other,” said Dr. Robinette. “But, common sense tells us it’s likely to lead to a more serious illness and potentially hospitalization.”
Getting sick with a respiratory infection in an ongoing pandemic has a lot more implications than it otherwise would. If your child gets sick with the flu, it will be treated like COVID-19 until a few negative tests prove otherwise because they share similar symptoms.
So now, your child — and possibly her entire classroom and teacher — will miss 2 weeks of school. You, the parent, will have to miss work while she’s isolated at home and your child will have to go to the doctor’s office to get tested for COVID-19.
“Getting sick during these uncertain times is much more complicated,” said Dr. Robinette. “If for nothing else, simply preventing the flu could be a major convenience factor for families this year in terms of missed work, school and medical expenditures.”
Flu shots are now available at Akron Children’s primary and urgent care locations, as well as our drive-thru clinics. You can schedule your child’s flu vaccine at Akron Children’s pediatrics offices in MyChart. If you already received the flu vaccine outside of Akron Children’s, you can update your records as complete in MyChart.
Learn more about Akron Children’s COVID-19 response and resources available for families.