Only 68 percent of American parents are likely to get their child the flu vaccine this year as the coronavirus pandemic continues to stretch public health infrastructure, a new study found.
Experts have previously noted the importance of ensuring that a high percentage of the population receives the flu vaccine in 2020, the winter season normally sees a spike in hospital visits related to influenza. With COVID-19 already pushing hospitals to their limits, taking the flu shot could be a valuable step toward protecting health institutions and ensuring that hospitals are able to manage dual outbreaks.
“We may see peaks of flu and COVID-19 at the same time, which could overwhelm the health care system, strain testing capacity and potentially reduce our ability to catch and treat both respiratory illnesses effectively,” Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clark said in a statement.
The Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health study found that some parents already understand this, with just over a third, 34 percent, believing that it is more important for their children to get the flu vaccine this year. However, 58 percent also said that the importance of getting the flu vaccine is about the same as last year.
“Our report finds that even during the pandemic, some parents don’t see the flu vaccine as more urgent or necessary. This heightens concerns about how the onset of flu season may compound challenges in managing COVID-19,” Clark said.
Among those parents who did not say that it is likely that their children will get the vaccine, one in seven said that they were deliberately keeping their children away from health sites due to risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic.
“Most child health providers have made changes to their office environment to keep children safe during office visits and vaccinations,” Clark explained.
“Parents who are concerned about COVID exposure should contact their child’s provider to learn about what types of precautions have been put in place,” she added.
Although health authorities have continued to recommend the use of the flu vaccine, the study found that this messaging had not necessarily filtered down to ground-level health providers. Less than half of the parents in the study said that their child’s regular health care provider had strongly recommended the flu vaccine this year.