Why kids need flu vaccines, even if they’re learning online

A doctor tells us why it’s especially important for kids to get a flu vaccine during the coronavirus pandemic – even if they’re not attending school in person.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — With flu season fast approaching, doctors want to make sure kids are vaccinated, especially since we’re also dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

If your little ones are learning remotely, you might think a flu shot isn’t necessary this year – but that’s not the case.

“Just because your child is learning remotely doesn’t mean influenza is moving remotely. It is still out in the community. It’s not just in the schools,” said Frank Esper, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s.  “It’s in stores, at parks and individuals around you. So, we still expect influenza to move from person-to-person and place-to-place.”

Getting a flu shot is especially important to help reduce the number of hospitalizations this fall and winter to prevent overwhelming our health care system, which is already dealing with COVID-19.

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Dr. Esper said flu season is inevitable but he hopes it won’t be as bad — mainly because people are already following social distancing guidelines and wearing masks for coronavirus.

He said children under the age of two are most at risk for flu but it can also infect healthy kids of any age – and sometimes lead to serious complications.

As for how effective this year’s flu shot will be, he said only time will tell, but regardless, it’s still better to have some protection than none at all.

“If you get the vaccine, you’re much less likely to get hospitalized,” said Dr. Esper. “And so, it may not prevent you from getting the flu, but it does prevent you from ending up needing oxygen, from ending up being hospitalized or even more so, going into the intensive care unit.”

Dr. Esper adds that children ages six months and older should get a flu vaccine. He adds that both types – shot and nasal spray – are acceptable.

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