This year, it is more important than ever to get the flu vaccine.
To many of us, this seems counterintuitive…we are all working WAY harder than ever to PREVENT illness; we are masking, distancing and handwashing…so, shouldn’t we be SAFER from the flu? Much of the southern hemisphere had a non-existent flu season, so, wouldn’t that further support the idea that our illness prevention strategies are working?
It’s not so simply…and let’s understand why….
1. We don’t know if the mild flu season in the southern hemisphere was due to our current illness prevention strategies, or due to the fact that MANY of the countries were in a form of lock down during their typical flu season. In our practice, we saw an almost complete halt to ALL contagious illnesses when our state shut down for the stay at home order. Now that we have opened up, despite our best efforts, we have seen a major spike in illness. Children are THE MAJOR vectors in the spread of influenza…they usually contract the illness and bring it home to adults. As schools reopen, it is virtually impossible to expect perfect masking, distancing and infection control, especially from younger children.
2. We want our schools to stay open! Protocols to keep schools open are much stricter this year than other years. Flu-like symptoms risk closing classrooms and even schools for weeks at a time.
3. People can contract more than one virus at a time. Typically, being infected with one illness makes one MORE susceptible when exposed to another. We KNOW that people can get COVID-19 and influenza at the same time. What we DON’T KNOW is what that interaction might look like, and what the risks of that interaction might be.
4. Flu and Covid-19 use the SAME medical resources – they use the same doctors, nurses, medical equipment and hospital resources. The flu vaccine DRASTICALLY reduces complications from influenza, and the need for medical intervention. The VAST MAJORITY (oftentimes, ALL) of the otherwise healthy children who we have to send to the hospital due to complications from the flu are UNVACCINATED.
Long story short, we don’t know what this flu season will bring. But we DO know that a flu vaccine prevents complications from the flu, reduces the risk of school closures, increases the availability of medical resources for those who need it, and gives us ONE LESS thing to worry about this winter!