Despite pediatrician recommendations that all kids six months and older should get the flu shot, many parents are on the fence about the effectiveness of the vaccine. Now, a new study conducted by researchers from Michigan Medicine shows that the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t made much of a difference in parents’ thinking about the flu shot.
Despite the current status of the pandemic, a new poll shows that one-third of parents aren’t planning on getting their children vaccinated for the flu this year.
“Our report finds that even during the pandemic, some parents don’t see the flu vaccine as more urgent or necessary,” said researcher Sarah Clark. “This heightens concern about how the onset of flu season may compound challenges in managing COVID-19.”
“We may see peaks of flu and COVID-19 at the same time, which could overwhelm the healthcare system, strain testing capacity, and potentially reduce our ability to catch and treat both respiratory illnesses effectively,” she said.
The researchers consulted responses from a Mott poll, which surveyed nearly 2,000 parents this past August. Survey respondents were asked several questions about their history of having their children vaccinated, their plans for future vaccinations, and how the pandemic has affected their decisions, if at all.
The study revealed that 32 percent of parents don’t plan on getting their child vaccinated for the flu this year, while 34 percent of parents believe a flu shot is more important this year than in years past because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For those opting against vaccination, nine percent have pointed to their kids’ fear of getting shots, and 14 percent are avoiding health care facilities in general because of the pandemic. However, the majority of parents are worried about potential side effects and the effectiveness of the vaccine, which the researchers are trying to dispel.
“There is a lot of misinformation about the flu vaccine, but it is the best defense for children against serious health consequences of influenza and the risk of spreading it to others,” said Clark.
The poll also showed that consistency is key with the flu shot, because 96 percent of parents who had their kids vaccinated last year plan to continue with it this year. However, the majority of those who weren’t vaccinated in the past didn’t plan to start this year.
“A key challenge for public health officials is how to reach parents who do not routinely seek seasonal flu vaccination for their child,” Clark 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.”
With flu season quickly approaching, and the COVID-19 pandemic several months underway, the researchers hope that parents will consider these findings when making decisions about their children’s health care.
“Children should get the flu vaccine not only to protect themselves, but to prevent the spread of influenza to family members and those who are at a higher risk of serious complications,” said Clark.