Newshub headline with Children's Wisconsin logo
Flu Vaccination

Why COVID-19 makes the flu vaccine more important than ever


While the COVID-19 pandemic has changed much of 2020, one thing remains true — flu season is coming. Getting the flu vaccination for your child is the best thing you can do to prevent them from getting sick. 

The flu, or influenza, is a respiratory illness that causes fever, chills, cough, sore throat, congestion, body aches and fatigue. Stomach illness with vomiting and diarrhea is commonly called the "stomach flu" — but this is not the same as influenza. 

Flu season typically begins in late fall, peaks in January and February, and may last until late spring. The flu virus changes each season, so even though you may have had the flu in the past, or have been vaccinated in previous years, you can get it again. It’s important to get your flu vaccination as soon as possible as it typically takes two weeks for the vaccine to be effective in preventing the flu. 

The flu and COVID-19
Because of COVID-19, preventing the flu is more important than ever for a few reasons.

  • Similar symptoms: Both the flu and COVID-19 share similar symptoms in kids — fever, chills, cough, sore throat, congestion, body aches and fatigue — which can make quickly diagnosing and treating someone more difficult. Getting both at the same time can also make it more difficult to recover.

  • Symptoms that spread COVID-19: Some symptoms of flu can actually help spread COVID-19 by releasing droplets — namely congestion and cough. 

  • Preventing crowded hospitals: Both the flu and COVID-19 can cause more people to need care in a hospital and we want to avoid hospitalizations as much as possible. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a 2018 study found the flu vaccine reduces the risk of being admitted to an intensive care unit with the flu by 82 percent

  • Overall health: Getting a flu vaccination contributes to your overall health and the health of the community, making it less likely someone will have a severe reaction to other respiratory viruses and need hospitalization. The vaccination can also help shorten how long you have the illness and lead to less missed school and workdays. 

All of these concerns can be reduced with the flu vaccination. Getting the vaccination is an easy way to help protect your family and community.

Is the flu vaccine safe?
The flu vaccine has been studied extensively, and it is safe and recommended for nearly everyone older than 6 months of age. Not only is the flu vaccine safe, but the doctors' offices and hospitals administering it are best equipped to provide a safe environment to get the shot. At Children’s Wisconsin, we’ve been taking many steps to ensure a clean and safe environment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most brands of influenza vaccine do not contain mercury. However, if mercury or the preservative thimerisol is present, extensive research has shown that this does not cause autism.

1

Patients with mild egg allergy such as hives can receive routine influenza vaccines.  A special egg-free vaccine is available for people with a history of severe, life-threatening egg allergy.  

While there may be some side effects of getting the vaccination, like soreness at the site of injection and mild flu-like symptoms, the vaccine does not cause the flu. The potential side effects of the vaccination are much less severe than a potential case of the flu.

The flu and kids

The flu can make anyone feel awful, but it is especially hard on kids. To help kids stay healthy, everyone in the family (with the exception of infants less than 6 months of age) should get the flu vaccine — kids, parents and grandparents. It is also important for pregnant women to get the vaccine to protect themselves and their unborn babies.

At Children’s Wisconsin, we have set a goal of administering 96,000 flu vaccines this year in order to protect as many children as possible. 

What about FluMist?
While the FluMist will be available this flu season, we believe the flu shot is the best way to get the vaccine. The FluMist will be available at Children’s Wisconsin Primary Care clinics, but it is important to know that some children should not get the FluMist because of age, certain health conditions, or other reasons. Your health care provider can help you decide.

Where to get the flu vaccination
Children’s Wisconsin is offering more times and locations to get flu shots to make it as easy as possible to get a flu vaccination. Whether your child is a Children’s Wisconsin patient or not, you can schedule a flu vaccination appointment online.

The flu and other vaccines should be covered by health insurance without a copayment or coinsurance, but be sure to check with your insurance company to find out if you have to get the flu shot from a specific doctor or location.

What if your child gets the flu?
If your child does get the flu, contact their doctor’s office by phone to determine if you should make an appointment or if they need any antiviral drugs. If your child is prescribed antivirals by their doctor, please ensure they take them as instructed. This can sometimes make the difference between a milder illness versus a more serious one. It is also important they rest and drink plenty of fluids.

Perhaps most importantly, do not send your child to school or daycare if they are sick. Staying home will prevent the spread of your child’s respiratory symptoms from both the influenza and COVID-19 viruses. Likewise, if you get the flu, be sure to stay home from work and rest.

To learn more about the flu or to schedule your child’s flu shot, visit childrenswi.org/flu