Q: My child is learning remotely this year. Should they still get a flu vaccine if they’re not leaving the house every day for school?
A: Influenza isn’t just in schools — it’s also out in our communities, in stores and in parks and in individuals around you. It’s still very important for kids to get vaccinated to protect themselves and everybody else around them from influenza.
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Anybody can get very sick with flu, including children. If you have a child under age 2, they’re one of the groups at increased risk for bad influenza if they get infected. Every year in the intensive care unit, I see children who have no preexisting problems, but they get bad flu and then they develop complications such as breathing problems or pneumonia. Vaccination helps prevent that. Kids who get the flu vaccine are less likely to get sick and less likely to need to be hospitalized if they do get the flu.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated (with rare exceptions) for the flu. Kids under age 9 who are getting the flu vaccine for the first time should get a second dose about a month after their first dose.
Flu season might not be as bad this year — especially if we all continue to wear our masks and social distance and stay home when we’re sick. By doing that, not only are we preventing the coronavirus from spreading but we’re also preventing a whole host of other viruses from spreading, including influenza. That’s great, but it doesn’t mean that influenza is going to take this year off completely. We still expect flu to spread from person to person and place to place like it has in the past, and getting the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and prevent the spread.
The last thing you want is to worry about is a pandemic and the flu at the same time.
— Pediatric infectious disease specialist Frank Esper, MD