September 6, 2022 – Parents take note: The country’s leading pediatric medical society is urging you to ensure your children get a flu shot this fall to help prevent and control the spread of the disease.
The American Academy of Pediatrics this week urged parents and caregivers to seek flu vaccines for their children once they become available in the fall. The group encourages parents to catch up on all other vaccinations for their children as well.
“As a pediatrician and a parent, I view the flu shot as critical for all family members,” said Kristina A. Bryant, MD, in a statement on the academy’s recommendations. “We should not underestimate the flu, especially when other respiratory viruses like COVID-19 are circulating in our communities. Not only can influenza make your child miserable and disrupt your family’s daily life, but it can also have serious and even fatal consequences for children.”
Only 55% of children ages 6 months to 17 years had been vaccinated against influenza in early April — 2% down from the previous April — and coverage rates were 8.1% lower for black children compared to non-Hispanic white children, according to the CDC. In the 2019-2020 flu season, 188 children in the United States died from the infection, the highest death toll of the 2017-2018 season, the agency reported.
The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommend that children 6 months and older be vaccinated with the flu vaccine every year. Depending on the child’s age and medical condition, they may be given either an injection with an inactive version of the flu virus or the nasal spray with a weakened form of the virus. (The Academy has more information on the different vaccines here.)
Children 6 to 8 months of age who are being vaccinated against influenza for the first time should receive two doses at least 4 weeks apart. Pregnant women can get the flu vaccine at any time during pregnancy. According to the Academy, flu vaccines are safe for developing fetuses.
The group emphasized the importance of influenza vaccines for high-risk and medically vulnerable children and recognized the need to remove barriers to vaccination for all people, regardless of income or insurance coverage. In 2020, an estimated 16.1% of children in the United States lived in poverty, according to the US Census Bureau, up from 14.4% in 2019.