In the era of Covid-19, I do not think that flu vaccination has ever been more important. The symptoms of Covid-19 and Influenza are very similar, although with some exceptions. Covid-19 has been mild in children compared to adults, were Influenza is usually more common in children. Last influenza season was quietly one of the worst in recorded history. Pediatric Influenza deaths numbered 188 tying the highest number on record. Hospitalization rates for children less than 4 were the highest on record, while the rates for children 5 to 18 equaled the H1N1 pandemic year of 2009.
There were several causes of this increase. The flu vaccine is always a guessing game. There are 4 flu strains in the vaccine, two Influenza A and two Influenza B. Natural infection with an A strain generally buys you immunity to another A strain, but not the B strain and vice-versa. Two of the 4 strains in the vaccine were miss-matched last year. Both have been adjusted this year and the hope is that we will have a better vaccine this season. The second cause in my opinion was CDC’s flawed prediction that the flu season would be late. Vaccines for Children (VFC), vaccine was not released until early to mid-October which caused two issues. First many of the most vulnerable children were not vaccinated when the season hit, and secondly offices were overwhelmed with the numbers and could not get caught up. As a result, the AAP recommended the flu shot be given as soon as we are able. As of this blogging I have private vaccine available and I am strongly recommending it. I believe it will be easier to deal with the certain rise in rates of Covid-19 as we enter the winter season, with Influenza being less of a concern. With VFC vaccine again expected to not arrive before the first of October it will be difficult to catch all our publicly insured children before the end of October as the CDC recommends. We at Steel City Pediatrics are looking into weekend flu clinics to meet the demand. As always, our greatest concern is for the well-being of our patients and families. Stay Sane and Stay Safe.