A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a decrease in immunizations for children heading toward the start of the school year. Could the same be true flu shots this year? Health care officials hope not.
When it comes to fewer kids getting immunized this year, Texas Medical Association Board Trustee Dr. Gary W. Floyd, a Fort Worth pediatrician, said much of the hesitation has simply been a reluctance to go to the doctor due to fear of exposure to COVID-19.
“So far this year, all vaccine rates have dropped, which is quite concerning for public safety. The last thing we need is a measles or pertussis (whooping cough) epidemic on top of the COVID pandemic,” Floyd explained.
In addition to an outbreak of a preventable disease, we also don’t need a 2020 flu season that overwhelms a health care system that is already teetering on the edge.
Gov. Greg Abbott made a personal appeal for flu shots at a Thursday news conference at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
“With a flu season that could be prolific, if that leads to greater hospitalizations coupled with the hospitalizations we are seeing for COVID-19, you can easily see how hospitals in this region as well as across Texas will be completely overrun with an inability for the hospitals to take care of the medical needs of everybody in the entire region,” said Abbott.
Abbott said the time to get a flu shot begins in September.
A major reason to get a flu shot is to remain as healthy as possible and, hopefully, avoid or prevent any respiratory complications. It is especially important this year.
“The more people who are vaccinated against the flu — especially in high-risk groups — the less likely it is that large numbers of Americans will need flu-related hospitalization, taking up beds for COVID-19 patients,” said Dr. Tim Callaghan with the Texas A&M School of Public Health.
Because some of the symptoms of COVID-19 and influenza overlap, being vaccinated will provide a useful but imperfect diagnostic tool for medical providers when assessing individuals presenting with overlapping symptoms this fall and winter.
The CDC recommends that all people 6 months and older get a yearly flu vaccine.
“Children are more susceptible. They have seen it less. They don’t have the same level of immunity. Vaccines help to protect them and them from driving it to other people,” said Dr. Pedro Piedra, a professor at Baylor College of Medicine.
There are multiple options for obtaining a flu vaccine that shouldn’t require you to stand in long lines and be afraid of COVID-19 exposure.
“There will be people who will be concerned about going to get a flu vaccine, and rightly so, but if it is done correctly whether through grocery, pharmacy, or appointment. It can be done in a fast and rapid manner,” Piedra said.
The flu shot continues to be an important tool to prevent illness and keep Americans of all ages healthy during flu season.
The major message is to stay healthy, said Piedra.