Children aged 6 months and older should receive a flu vaccine this fall, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised Tuesday, however kids with moderate-to-severe COVID-19 should delay flu shots until they have recovered.
Experts are concerned about an uptick in flu activity this winter amid the return to in-person learning, the group noted.
"During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to remember that influenza is also a highly contagious respiratory virus that can cause severe illness and even death in children," Dr. Flor Munoz, lead author of the policy statement and technical report, developed by the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases, said in a statement issued Tuesday. "The flu vaccine is safe, effective, and can be given alongside other routine immunizations and the COVID-19 vaccine."
The pediatrics group doesn’t prefer one type of flu vaccine over the other; depending on age and health kids can receive an injection or nasal spray. Other recommendations include flu vaccinations among kids in high-risk groups, those with an egg allergy and for pregnant and postpartum women.
Flu shots can lower the risk of severe illness or hospitalization with the flu, and the AAP estimated that 80% of pediatric flu deaths in years past were among those not yet vaccinated, with about half of deaths in otherwise healthy children.
The AAP also recommended COVID-19 vaccine for all kids aged 12 and older.
"This year it will be especially important to keep our children healthy, as we’ve seen hospital beds and emergency services fill beyond capacity in communities where transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses remains high," Munoz added. "This means catching up on all immunizations, including the flu vaccine, and making sure children wash hands frequently, wear masks in school and during indoor group activities, and maintain physical distance from others."