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- Why Is It Recommended to Vaccinate Your Child Against Flu/Influenza During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
- How Does the Influenza Vaccine Protect Kids From COVID Severity?
- What Do Studies Show?
- What Is the Ideal Time to Give Your Child Flu Shots?
- How Is the Flu Vaccine Given to Kids?
- Which Children Should Not Get the Flu Shot?
COVID-19 in children is a matter of great concern amongst parents and medical professionals, ever since the beginning of the pandemic. Unfortunately, in the past few months, we have witnessed a steady increase in COVID cases in children. Moreover, there’s still no guarantee whether children can be completely protected from this virus or not.
If you’ve been thinking about whether to give your child a flu shot as a precaution but have questions about this topic, we have answers for you below.
Why Is It Recommended to Vaccinate Your Child Against Flu/Influenza During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Giving your children the flu shots when recommended by the doctor is a great idea, but even more this year, with the spread of the coronavirus throughout the country. Considering factors like seasonal changes, parents are well aware that cold and flu also bring with them several respiratory issues among children. However, falling ill with both the flu and COVID-19 can be a recipe for disaster, and in that case, the hospitalisation of children becomes unavoidable. As most hospitals are being filled up with severely ill patients, public health leaders are requesting everyone, especially parents, to give their child the flu vaccine to both protect them and prevent hospitals from getting overcrowded with sick patients.
How Does the Influenza Vaccine Protect Kids From COVID Severity?
Influenza and SARS-CoV-2 both have similar clinical and epidemiologic features. With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, an additional influenza infection may transform the pandemic into a ‘twindemic’ situation. Vaccinating children with flu shots will offer a possible advantage of preventing the risk of infection, thereby bringing down infection severity among kids in the possible third wave.
What Do Studies Show?
The medical researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia conducted a study on 905 children who tested positive for COVID-19. It was found that getting an influenza shot can reduce the risk of infection. They administered the seasonal flu vaccination to the children, following which approximately 29 per cent of the children seemed less likely to develop COVID-19 symptoms.
The research team also found that 32 per cent of these children who received the influenza shot were less likely to contract respiratory illnesses that develop due to different causes. The author of the study believed that the flu vaccines provided the children with immunological protection against the coronavirus through a biological phenomenon called ‘viral interference’. A viral interference is a phenomenon in which a cell that has been infected by a virus becomes resistant towards a second outcoming infection caused by a superinfectant virus.
What Is the Ideal Time to Give Your Child Flu Shots?
Experts have advised vaccinating every child with the influenza shot, which is easily accessible in the private market but does not fall under the National Immunization Programme before the monsoons. This suggestion was made to avoid unnecessary RT-PCR tests and overcrowding of hospitals by people with flu-like symptoms similar to COVID-19.
How Is the Flu Vaccine Given to Kids?
The first flu vaccine is given at six months after the child is born, as up to six months the child has their mother’s immunity to protect them. Therefore, once the child completes six months, the parents must ensure they get their child a flu vaccine every year until the child turns five.
Which Children Should Not Get the Flu Shot?
The following children should not get a flu shot:
- Babies below six months of age. Although the flu vaccine is not harmful to babies below six months, it does not work for them.
- If your child is allergic to thimerosal (a preservative in the flu vaccine), a thimerosal-free vaccine should be administered.
1. My child had the flu a few months back, doesn’t it mean he’s immune?
No. Your child will still need to get the flu vaccine. Even if they had the flu two years ago or the year before, there might be a possibility that the virus strains that are causing the flu this year are different or mutated.
2. Does my child need more than one shot?
This will depend on the situation. Children usually receive their first flu vaccine after they complete six months of age, at which point they are administered another shot approximately four weeks later. That is because the immune systems of children below the age of eight don’t have as strong a response to the shot as older children and adults do. Peak immunity develops around two weeks after the second shot.
Children who are younger than eight and have never received the flu vaccine before will need two flu shots this year, with a gap of four weeks between each shot. Similarly, children below the age of eight who have received just one flu shot in the past and never received the second flu shot at any other point in time should also get two shots this year.
Children aged eight years and older only need one flu shot, and it will take a minimum of two weeks for those children to become fully immune after the shot is administered.
If you’re still unsure, ask your doctor for guidance.
3. Can kids take both the flu and COVID vaccines?
Presently the COVID vaccine is not recommended for children.
4. What else can be done to protect children from respiratory viruses in addition to getting the influenza vaccine?
The other precautions you can take to keep respiratory viruses, like the flu, at bay include: keeping away from people who are ill, avoiding touching your eyes and mouth, washing your hands frequently, wearing masks in public spaces, and social distancing whenever and wherever possible.
Ensure you clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home. Also, make sure that your child gets adequate sleep, exercises, eats a nutritious, balanced diet, and drinks plenty of water.
5. Should I consult a doctor before giving my child a flu shot?
Yes, do consult a doctor before giving your child a flu shot, as the doctor will help decide whether the vaccination is right for your child, and will select the best vaccine for them.
6. Will there be any side effects of the influenza vaccine?
The side effects of the flu vaccine are usually mild and go away on their own within a few days. However, some of the side effects that may occur from a flu vaccine include soreness, redness/swelling where the shot was given, nausea, fever, mild headache, muscle pain, and fatigue.
7. How much does the vaccine cost?
The flu vaccine costs INR 1,500 – INR. 2,000 for a single shot.
It is very important and necessary for every parent to take care of their children during these trying times because even a little carelessness can result in them getting ill. Considering our country’s condition, where there’s a rise in COVID cases every day, it’s preferable to take care of your child at home and get the flu vaccine at the earliest. A flu vaccine can definitely cut the risk of getting an infection, and also save children from being hospitalised at this critical time.