LOUISVILLE, Ky. — As researchers race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, there's already a safe, effective way to protect children from another common and unpredictable infection, influenza, which can cause severe illness and even death. 

What You Need To Know

  • Pediatricians recommend flu shots for everyone six months and older

  • Flu shot, nasal spray both available

  • Last flu season, 188 children and teens under 19 died of flu complications

  • People can conract flu, coronavirus at the same time

This fall, pediatricians say it's more important than ever for everyone over six months old to be vaccinated. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (APP) in its policy statement offers the option of a flu shot or nasal spray this season. Any licensed age-appropriate vaccine is acceptable, according to the recommendations, which are similar to those of the last flu season. Public health officials warn that hospital beds and emergency services could quickly extend beyond capacity in communities where coronavirus transmission remains high.

“You can still get the coronavirus and flu at the same time,” said Dr. Mark Brockman Jr., a pediatrician with Norton Children’s Medical Associates Iroquois. “That’s one of my biggest concerns.”

Over the past flu season, 188 children and teens under 19 died of complications from influenza, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Typically, about 80 percent of children who die are not vaccinated.

“We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, so the more that we can reduce hospitalization and the burden of the flu that will leave us well suited to handle whatever happens with the pandemic,” said Brockman.

The AAP recommends:

  • An annual influenza vaccine for everyone six months and older.
  • Children should receive the flu vaccine as soon as it is available in their community and complete their vaccinations ideally by the end of October.
  • Both the flu shot and nasal spray vaccines are recommended to prevent influenza in children, with no preference given to one or the other. This year, all influenza vaccines for children will be quadrivalent vaccines, including two A and two B flu virus strains, to protect against the four strains of influenza virus expected to circulate this season.
  • The number of recommended doses of influenza vaccine depends on a child’s age at the time of the first administered dose and their vaccine history. Children five months to eight years of age should receive two doses if this is the first time they are being vaccinated against influenza, or if they have only received one dose of flu vaccine ever before July 1, 2020.
  • All children with an egg allergy of any severity can receive an influenza vaccine without any additional precautions beyond those recommended for any vaccine. Egg allergy is not a contraindication for influenza vaccination.
  • Pregnant women may receive an influenza vaccine at any time during pregnancy. Maternal vaccination can protect infants in the first few months of life, which is important because there are no vaccines available for infants zero to six months of age.
  • All health care personnel should receive an annual seasonal influenza vaccine to prevent influenza and reduce healthcare-associated influenza infections.