Story at a glance
- About 32 percent, or 1 in 3, parents said they will not get their children vaccinated against the flu.
- Health officials are concerned about dueling outbreaks of COVID-19 and influenza this winter.
Despite contrary public health messaging encouraging influenza vaccinations with the looming threat of duel outbreaks of the flu and COVID-19 this winter, new data suggest that approximately 32 percent of parents will not have their children get a flu vaccine.
Results from a survey conducted by Michigan Medicine’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital reveals 1 in 3 parents doesn’t plan to have their children get a flu vaccine this year, the Detroit Free Press reports.
Health experts have reiterated the importance of getting a flu vaccine this year as the U.S. still battles the coronavirus. In preparation for mass demand, the U.S. government has ordered around 194 to 198 million doses of the influenza vaccine — a record order number.
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If the population develops a broad immunity against the flu, it will help prevent hospitals and health care systems from being overrun with both influenza and COVID-19-related illnesses.
Unfortunately, this public health messaging may not have resonated with the entire population.
“The pandemic doesn’t seem to be changing parents’ minds about the importance of the flu vaccine,” the poll analysis says. “It could be a double whammy flu season this year as the nation already faces a viral deadly disease with nearly twin symptoms.”
The hospital polled roughly 2,000 parents of children aged 2 to 18 in August, and found many parents don’t regard the flu vaccine as “more urgent or necessary” against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
One leading reason prompting some parents not to vaccinate their children comes from wanting to keep them away from health care facilities and potential COVID-19 exposure during the pandemic, with 14 percent of respondents avoiding vaccine sites for this reason.
Longstanding misinformation surrounding flu vaccines also motivates some parents to opt out of the flu vaccine for their child, such as misinformation about side effects or the efficacy of the vaccine.
Children have been found to be major spreaders of COVID-19 largely due to the asymptomatic effect it has on young patients, but they also spread influenza with similar ferocity. The National Foundation for Infectious Disease (NFID) says that children are major spreaders of the flu because they may pass on larger viral loads of bacteria for a longer period of time than adults.
The NFID recommends that everyone aged 6 months or older should be vaccinated against the flu each year.
“A key challenge for public health officials is how to reach parents who do not routinely seek seasonal flu vaccination for their child,” Sarah Clark, the director of the Mott Hospital Poll, said. “When getting a yearly flu vaccine is not a pattern, parents need to be prompted to think about why it’s essential for their child to get vaccinated.”
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