Between the onset of cold weather and the fact people will naturally be spending more time among crowds indoors, some experts are worried about a twindemic, or the potential convergence of our annual flu season with an expected "second wave" of coronavirus cases, in the fall and winter. Given the circumstances, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently released guidelines recommending that everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu shot by the end of October. According to a new poll from Michigan Medicine and C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, however, one in three parents don't plan to get their kids flu vaccines this year, which could be cause for concern.
"We may see peaks of flu and COVID-19 at the same time, which could overwhelm the health care system, strain testing capacity and potentially reduce our ability to catch and treat both respiratory illnesses effectively," said Sarah Clark, codirector of the Mott Poll and a research scientist in the department of pediatrics at the University of Michigan.
Sarah wants to emphasize that getting every member of the family, especially kids, a flu vaccine — whether it's a shot or the nasal spray — should definitely be at the top of parents' to-do lists this year. "Our report finds that even during the pandemic, some parents don't see the flu vaccine as more urgent or necessary," she said. "This heightens concerns about how the onset of flu season may compound challenges in managing COVID-19."
Children play a pivotal role in the transmission of influenza to others in their household."
Dr. Flor Munoz, the lead author of the AAP's flu recommendations for the 2020-2021 year, is worried that kids who don't get their flu vaccine will spread the flu. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that kids younger than 5 — and especially those younger than 2 — are at a high risk of developing serious flu-related complications. "As a pediatrician, I am very concerned about the health of children and their families this fall if these two potentially deadly viruses are circulating in the community at the same time," she said in a press release. "Children play a pivotal role in the transmission of influenza to others in their household. They can also get seriously ill from influenza without a vaccination."
To keep our communities as safe as possible, Dr. Munoz encourages families to continue to practice routine safety precautions throughout flu season. "During a pandemic, we can work together to reduce the risks of infection and of spreading illness to others," she explained. "Besides getting our vaccine to prevent influenza, we can be vigilant in making sure we and our children continue to maintain COVID-19 precautions, including social distancing, face coverings and frequent handwashing."