Attention parents: The nation’s leading pediatric medical society is urging you to make sure your children get a flu shot this fall to prevent and control the spread of the illness.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently called on parents and caregivers to seek flu vaccines for their children as soon as they are available in the fall. The group is encouraging parents to catch up on all other vaccines for their children, too.
“As a pediatrician and a parent, I consider the flu vaccine as critical for all family members,” Kristina A. Bryant, MD, said in a statement about the academy’s recommendations. “We should not underestimate the flu, especially when other respiratory viruses like COVID-19 are circulating within our communities. Besides making your child miserable and wreaking havoc on your family’s routine, influenza can also be serious and even deadly in children.”
Only 55% of children aged 6 months to 17 years had been vaccinated against influenza as of early April – down 2% from the previous April – and coverage levels were 8.1% lower for Black children compared with non-Hispanic White children, according to the CDC. In the 2019-2020 flu season, 188 children in the United States died of the infection, equaling the high mark for deaths set in the 2017-2018 season, the agency reported.
American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommend children aged 6 months and older be vaccinated with the flu vaccine every year. Depending on the child’s age and health, they may receive either a shot, which has an inactive version of the flu virus, or the nasal spray, which has a weakened form of the virus. The academy has more information about the different vaccines.
Children aged 6-8 months who are getting flu vaccines for the first time should receive two doses at least 4 weeks apart. Pregnant women can get the flu vaccine any time in their pregnancy. Influenza vaccines are safe for developing fetuses, according to the academy.
The group stressed the importance of flu vaccines for high-risk and medically vulnerable children and acknowledged the need to end barriers to immunizations for all people, regardless of income or insurance coverage. In 2020, an estimated 16.1% of children in the United States were living in poverty, up from 14.4% in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
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