It’s time to Vaccinate your Family Against Influenza!
Jonathan Miller, MD, Chief, Primary Care and Medical Director, Value-Based Care and Meghan Walls, PsyD, Pediatric Psychologist, Legislative and Policy Advisor
As we enter the fall season, families are asking about the importance of the flu vaccine in the setting of the COVID-19 pandemic. The flu vaccine is recommended for all kids over 6 months of age – every year – but this year the flu vaccine is even more crucial.
There are two main reasons for this. First, the symptoms of influenza (flu) are very similar to the symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough, and sore throat; the flu vaccine makes it less likely that symptoms are due to influenza leading to less confusion about diagnoses for doctors. Second, one of the greatest threats of COVID-19 is the potential to overwhelm the ability of our healthcare system to manage very sick patients. A surge in sick patients with the flu, in addition to an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, could be devastating to our capacity to care for all patients. We have the ability to help our communities stay safe!
The flu vaccine is given to millions of Americans every year, and has been shown to be very safe. It can be given either as a shot or as a nasal spray. The effectiveness of the vaccine varies from year to year depending on what strains of influenza are circulating in the community. But it is important to remember that the vaccine protects against four different strains of influenza, and not only does it protect against getting the virus, but it can also make the symptoms less severe for people who still get infected.
We know that one of the tough parts of the flu vaccine – even once you decide you are going to get it- is handling how to approach it with kids and teens. Try these tips and tricks!
Be honest- tell your child it will hurt briefly.
Bring a distraction- a video to watch or a game to play on the phone.
Have them take deep breaths- make it fun by using bubbles or a pinwheel.
Keep kids sitting up and feeling some control.
Let kids have a treat during or right after, like a lollipop.
Let babies nurse while getting vaccinated.
Don’t lie and say it won’t hurt.
Don’t threaten vaccines as punishment ever!
Don’t yell at them if they are scared or crying.
Don’t hold them down if you don’t have to.
Don’t feel bad taking a break from the room if you’re more anxious than they are and your doctor’s office offers!
Flu vaccines are incredibly important- but the most important reason to get this vaccine is not just to protect yourself from the flu, but to protect the vulnerable people in your community. As with everything else during this pandemic, it takes a village- and we can do it if we work together!