| Detroit Free Press
Experts say flu shot very important in COVID year
Infectious disease experts are urging the public, now more than ever, to get vaccinated against the flu. The added urgency stems in part from the symptoms it shares with COVID-19 and concerns about confusing them. (Sept. 14)
Public health experts fear winter will bring the seasonal flu on top of the coronavirus pandemic, and many parents, at least one survey suggests, aren’t going to protect their children from it.
One in three parents doesn’t plan on having their children get a flu shot this year, according to a national health poll released Monday by Michigan Medicine’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor.
“The pandemic doesn’t seem to be changing parents’ minds about the importance of the flu vaccine,” the poll analysis concluded. “It could be a double whammy flu season this year as the nation already faces a viral deadly disease with nearly twin symptoms.”
Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clark added this could “overwhelm the health care system, strain testing capacity and potentially reduce our ability to catch and treat both respiratory illnesses effectively.”
The hospital’s August survey of nearly 2,000 parents of children age 2-18 years found many parents don’t see the flu vaccine as “more urgent or necessary,” heightening concerns the onset of flu season may make managing the pandemic worse.
Influenza has led to between 9 to 45 million illnesses, including 140,000 to 810,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 to 61,000 deaths a year since 2010, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.
Children younger than 5, and especially those younger than 2, are at high risk.
Last year, six children in Michigan died because of the flu.
Last month, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Michiganders who get the flu vaccine will help improve the health and safety of everyone, as she took off her blazer and got shots herself.
Health experts offered several reasons why parents might not get their children flu shots this year, including misinformation about the flu vaccine.
Fourteen percent of parents surveyed said they will not seek the flu vaccine because they are keeping children away from health care sites due to the risk of coronavirus exposure.
Others may not be getting reminders to get the flu shot because child health providers have limited the number of patients seen for in-person visits.
Michigan Medicine urged health providers to send reminder postcards and post website messages to emphasize the importance of children getting the flu vaccine during this pandemic year.
Among the 32% of parents who said their child was unlikely to get a flu vaccine this year, the most common reasons include concerns about side effects or beliefs that it isn’t necessary or effective.
The survey found families least likely to get their children flu shots were those who didn’t do so last year, and less than a third of those parents say their child will probably get a flu vaccine this year.
In contrast, parents who said their child got a flu vaccine last year, nearly all intend to have their child get flu vaccine this year.
“A key challenge for public health officials is how to reach parents who do not routinely seek seasonal flu vaccination for their child,” Clark said. “When getting a yearly flu vaccine is not a pattern, parents need to be prompted to think about why it’s essential for their child to get vaccinated.”
Contact Frank Witsil: 313-222-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org.