Experts are calling for flu shots for children this year

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WebMD Health

Oct 19, 2021 – With the potential for a major flu outbreak this winter, flu trackers say it’s more important than ever to make sure kids get the flu vaccine as soon as possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that anyone older than 6 months get an annual flu shot, ideally by the end of this month.

Two mathematical models predict a recovery in the number of influenza cases and their severity in the period 2021-22. Last year’s flu season fell through when public health measures to control COVID-19 appeared to have the added benefit of stopping the flu.

But both analyzes, which have been posted on the medRxiv preprint server and have not yet been assessed by other experts, come to the same conclusion: the flu could celebrate a comeback this year.

Had to take Timothy yesterday to get his flu shot. Man, this kid is for sure the funniest of my 4. His swag is always on 1000 …… I’ve learned to appreciate those kinds of moments. They pass quickly.❤️💯 pic.twitter.com/kU15oJyW0D

– Ray Young (@rayfordyoung) October 15, 2021

There is already some evidence that children may be at higher than usual risk of respiratory infections as public health measures to fight COVID-19 are eased, says Flor Munoz, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who was the author of the American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines.

There were more cases of respiratory syncytial virus and other viruses in children this summer, although these diseases are typically not reported at this time of year.

“It’s clear that children are exposed to respiratory viruses, and once the flu hits the community, they’re at risk,” Munoz says.

More people at risk

After missing the flu season last year, there is no question that there are now more people who are susceptible to the flu, Munoz says. “A lot of people haven’t had the flu in about 2 years, and with low vaccinations it means there will be a larger pool of susceptible people,” she says.

This lack of herd immunity, usually due to a combination of vaccinations and people exposed to related strains of the virus, means children in particular could be at high risk of infection this year, says Mark Roberts, MD, director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory from the University of Pittsburgh.

In a normal year, around 180-200 children die from the flu. But only one death was recorded last year. “Very few children have had the flu in the past year, so young children have almost no natural immunity,” he says.

Children are also pretty big carriers of the flu, says Roberts, which makes infections in children a danger not only to themselves but to other susceptible people they might come in contact with.

“That’s why it’s really important to vaccinate children,” he says.

With COVID-19 vaccinations approved for children under the age of 12 soon, some parents may be inclined to withhold flu vaccinations for their children to avoid complications. However, the CDC says it is safe to get both vaccines close together or even at the same time.

Munoz says people should be aware that both vaccines can cause reactions and plan ahead, especially if they have had reactions in the past.

“You can take them at the same time or at different times as long as you get both vaccines,” she says.

It is never easy to predict what the coming flu season will look like.

“Not only could there be more flu this year, but more serious illnesses as well,” says Munoz.

But it is also possible that we will have another mild season if the influenza virus takes longer to recover from the extremely low numbers of last year.

“Every flu outbreak is different and unpredictable,” she says.

WebMD health news

sources

American Academy of Pediatricians: “AAP flu recommendations allow co-administration with a COVID-19 vaccine.”

MedRxiv, “Predicting the Impact of Low Influenza Activity in 2020 on Population Immunity and the Future Influenza Season in the United States,” “Drug-Based Study of the Impact of Low Influenza Rates on Next Season Influenza Infections”.

Flor Munoz, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston.

Mark Roberts, MD, Director, Public Health Dynamics Laboratory, University of Pittsburgh.

CDC: “Seasonal Flu and COVID-19.”


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