By Heather Cooper, Seattle Children’s Hospital (Estimated reading time: 5 mins)
Both the Washington State Department of Health and Dr. Matthew Kronman, infectious disease expert at Seattle Children’s Hospital, are spreading the word near and far. This year, it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated against the flu. The flu vaccine can keep families from getting and spreading the flu to others during the COVID-19 pandemic. We may not have a vaccine for COVID-19 yet, but we do have one for the flu.
“The flu vaccine is urgent – every year. Getting the flu vaccine is the single best way to avoid flu illness, flu hospitalization, and even death due to flu for children,” Kronman said. “Yet this year we have an additional reason to strongly encourage parents to get the flu vaccine for their children: COVID-19. The course of the pandemic is unpredictable, and we want to remove any other strains on the healthcare system that we can. In this case, getting the flu vaccine does exactly that.”
Does the flu vaccine really work?
The flu vaccine really does work for families and communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), new data shows that overall flu vaccination coverage for 2019-2020 was 52%. The CDC estimates that this level of coverage prevented 7.5 million flu illnesses, 105,000 hospitalizations, and 6,300 deaths.
While the flu vaccine keeps many people from getting the flu, some people may still get sick. Vaccinated people who still get sick usually have less severe illness and a reduced chance of needing urgent or emergency care than people who get sick and didn’t get the vaccine.
“The flu vaccine is safe and effective at reducing illness and death due to flu – which is something all parents should want to avoid for their children,” Kronman said. “Everyone 6 months and older should get the flu vaccine each year.”
When should my family get the flu vaccine?
Families should get vaccinated now for the best protection through the winter months when the flu is most likely to spread. However, flu vaccines will still be available through the flu season while vaccine supply remains, and will still offer protection through the end of the flu season in the spring.
How can I safely get a flu vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Just as families have added some safety steps to their routine when running errands, families should take the similar precautions when getting the flu vaccine to keep themselves safe from COVID-19 and other illnesses. Be sure to wear a face covering, wash hands often, and stay six feet away from others while out.
Clinics and pharmacies are also following special safety guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, there are options like drive-through vaccination clinics, or people may be asked to wait outside or in their vehicle until their appointment time in order to limit the number of people in the building. We recommend calling the clinic or pharmacy and ask what kind of safety procedures they follow.
How many doses of the 2020–2021 seasonal flu vaccine does my child need?
Use the statements below to determine the quantity of doses of flu vaccine your child may need this year. Consult with your child’s healthcare provider for additional questions.
- Babies younger than 6 months of age are too young to get the flu vaccine. It’s important for those who have contact with your baby to get the flu vaccine to help keep your baby safe.
- Children 6 months through age 8 getting a flu vaccine for the first time need to receive 2 doses this flu season. Get the first dose as soon possible. The second dose should be given 4 weeks after the first dose.
- Children 6 months through age 8 who have received only 1 dose of flu vaccine in the past also need 2 doses this flu season. Get the first dose as soon as possible. The second dose should be given 4 weeks after the first dose.
- Children 6 months through age 8 who have received 2 or more doses of flu vaccine in the past only need 1 dose this flu season.
- Children age 9 and older need only 1 dose of flu vaccine this season.
Where can I get a flu vaccine?
Families can visit their local doctor’s office, pharmacy, or clinic event. Visit https://www.vaccinefinder.org/ to find a flu vaccine location near you. You may also check with your child’s school district if they have school-based health centers. Many of them are offering a flu vaccine for students.
Does my insurance cover the flu vaccine?
Children aged 18 and under in Washington can get a flu vaccine and other recommended vaccines at no cost. The provider may charge an administration fee to give the vaccine. Families can ask them to waive this fee if it is unaffordable.
Most insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare part B, cover the cost of a flu vaccine for adults. If families do not have insurance, they may still be able to get the flu vaccine at no cost. Talk to a local health department for more information.
Seek answers to any questions you have
It’s OK to ask doctors for more information about vaccines, and families can also reference the resources below. It’s important to follow medical advice from trusted experts, and they’re ready to answer questions.
“Do your part to protect yourself and your family this winter season,” Kronman said. “Get a flu vaccine for everyone in the family 6 months of age and older!”
- About the Flu
- Frequently Asked Flu Questions: 2020-2021 Season
- Is it COVID-19? A chart of symptoms of COVID-19 v. cold v. flu v. allergies
- Immunizations: Why Are They Needed and How Do I Prepare My Child?