Since March, people around the country have been worrying about themselves or their children catching COVID-19 and spreading it to others.
Pediatricians at Montefiore are reminding parents and caregivers that right now, they can take control and help protect their children’s health with the flu vaccine. CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a seasonal flu vaccine by the end of October.
Director of Pediatric Infection Control at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM), Dr. Margaret Aldrich, explained that while health professionals are hopeful that the use of masks, frequent hand washing and continued social distancing will lessen the impact of the flu this year, it is still essential that people protect themselves from the flu, which can be deadly in itself but even more so if combined with COVID-19.
Each year, millions of children get sick with seasonal flu, thousands of children are hospitalized and some die. According to Aldrich, Bronx flu vaccination rates are lower than average in any given year.
“I think the important thing for families to know is we really need people to get their flu vaccines,” Aldrich said. “The flu and COVID-19 have a lot of similar symptoms.”
With 46 percent of families choosing remote learning this year, many children won’t have access to the vaccine in school, which means caregivers need to be proactive and make an appointment with their pediatrician. For the children who are going into the classroom, any way to reduce the potential of being sick is recommended, especially because kids do not want to be sent home with suspected COVID when in fact it’s the flu.
“We need to do everything we can to prevent active transmission of influenza and COVID-19,” she explained. “From my perspective, masking can prevent spreading from one person to another.”
Aldrich noted that many people may be asymptomatic, so wearing the mask is even more important.
She compared the flu shot to wearing a seatbelt, a task that is not difficult to do and can save lives.
“The vaccine is the same idea,” she said. “Most people don’t think about getting in a car without putting on a seat belt.”
However, Aldrich was concerned that due to COVID-19 and the reality of many people stuck in quarantined, parents will not want to leave their homes to get the flu shot. She stressed that as long as they make an appointment and are wearing a mask, it’s safe and should be done.
“We do worry that people will be less eager to get the vaccine,” Aldrich said.