SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Medical experts are advising the public to get their flu shot this year as the 2021-2022 flu season is expected to be more intense than last year.
Last year’s flu season was one of the mildest on record, which many attributed to the safety measures, especially mask wearing, taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, this year’s upcoming respiratory season may be different.
“Relaxing some of the infection control measures, such as masking and social distancing, and more time indoors due to the cold weather, may contribute to the risk being greater this year,” said Dr. Armando Paez, Chief of the Infectious Disease Division at Baystate Health, “Increased flu vaccination for both adults and children could help reduce the risk of a more severe flu season which would result in what health professionals are calling a possible twindemic of flu and COVID-19.”
The lack of a significant flu season last year means that many of our kids under two were not exposed to the flu and did not develop any natural antibodies. Children between six months and eight years who have never received at least two doses of the flu vaccine at any point in time during their lives need two doses of flu vaccine, given at least four weeks apart, to be fully protected from the flu. Although most COVID-19 infections in children are mild, doctors are concerned about kids who might get COVID-19 and the flu back to back.
“And now to get the flu on top of that is again, I’m taking a lung that is somewhat damaged and really whacking it with a pretty serious viral illness like influenza. It’s that double whammy that my lungs are already somewhat injured and I’m going to reinjury them,” said Dr. John O’Reilly, chief of the Division of General Pediatrics at Baystate Children’s Hospital.
The CDC recommends that everyone should be vaccinated by the end of October as the flu can start at any time. The government agency also mentioning that flu shots are appropriate for most people over the age of 6 months. Baystate Medical Center’s Dr. Paez mentioned in a statement issued by the medical facility that those who are pregnant, have chronic health conditions, or are over the age of 65 should get the vaccine as soon as possible.
An additional concern is children 6 months to 8 years of age who were not exposed to the flu and did not develop any natural antibodies. These children are recommended to get a second dose of the flu vaccine; that’s according to Dr. O’Reilly.
“[Parents] should call your pediatrician’s office today because you want to build up their [children’s] immune system protection before influenza starts hitting our community hard,” said Dr. O’Reilly.