Flu vaccine during COVID-19 pandemic: Why is it the right time for your child to get flu vaccine?

Dr Srikanta J T, Paediatric Pulmonologist, Aster CMI Hospital

Over the period of last two years, the novel coronavirus has drastically disrupted our lives. With the first and the second wave impacting more adults, the third wave of the covid-19 infection is expected to impact children. Amid the third wave, other viral infections have also been impacting children and adults. Therefore, given the seasonal changes and other factors, ailments like common cold and other flu infections along with the covid-19 virus can severely impact kids during the third wave and can be a double whammy for the entire healthcare industry.

While the public and private players are developing pediatric vaccines, a dose of the flu vaccine can prevent children from several respiratory problems and can ensure their safety.

Why getting a flu shot during the COVID-19 pandemic is critical right now and how does it help kids?

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), between 140,000 and 810,000 people are hospitalized annually with flu. Therefore, by getting both yourself and your child vaccinated, you are reducing the chances of developing other viral infections and COVID-19.

Flu is an infectious disease that can take a toll on your child’s immunity and thus by getting them vaccinated for the same, you’re not only building their immunity, but also reducing the possibilities of hospital visits. These shots help in minimizing the risk of developing respiratory problems among kids and also prevent them from becoming super-spreaders of several infections.

All children below the age of 5 years need yearly shots of killed Injectable vaccine shots. Other children who are at high risks like asthma, chronic illnesses, cancer patients, and transplant recipients too need to take it for protection against this predictable seasonal illness. The Elderly with comorbid conditions can also safely take flu shots.

The first flu shot is given at six months after the birth of the child and till then, children have their mother’s immunity to shield them from the pathogens. After a period of six months, parents must get their children vaccinated for flu every year until they reach five years of age.

Do flu vaccines have the potential to protect kids against covid-19?

 Yes and No. Flu vaccine in children not only protects them but also prevents transmission to adults. On the same note, an adult contracting flu from his colleagues cannot be prevented by the same. Flu shots offer a possible advantage of ‘viral interference’ that prevents children from developing severe infections from COVID-19.

Even though it is true that most symptoms and signs of both covid-19 and flu are the same, but to the contrary belief, influenza has higher mortality when compared to Covid, i.e. 1% vs 0.1 % respectively (100 times higher) which makes vaccination against flu extremely critical during the current scenario.

What are the signs and symptoms to look out for and how can you protect your child?

According to the CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common and similar symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu are –

  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache

As the virus impacts everyone equally, therefore, during the current times it is important that you do not send your kids outdoors to play and rather organize indoor activities for them.  Ensure that they wear a mask whenever they are exposed to a crowded area and encourage proper handwashing and sanitization etiquettes among them.  If left unattended, children may touch contaminated or infected surfaces and objects, which may lead to an infection. To avoid this, it is crucial to ensure that before touching their eyes, nose, and mouth their hands are sanitized properly. Dr. Srikanta J T, Paediatric Pulmonologist, Aster CMI Hospital

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