Preparing for flu season during a pandemic

Flu season is something we anticipate each year. This year as we battle the flu, we’re also up against another health enemy: COVID-19. While 2020 has given us many firsts, this will be the first time in many of our lives that we’ve had to be vigilant to protect ourselves and other from the annual flu and from a global pandemic.

With many schools back in session for in-person learning, and local communities continuing reopen gradually, COVID-19 is still spreading, how do we prepare for flu season while still battling a pandemic? The pediatric health experts at Children’s Hospital New Orleans are offering support for schools and childcare centers across New Orleans and the state of Louisiana as they continue to reopen. The important infection prevention measures put in place to protect against COVID-19 will also help protect against seasonal flu.

The most important defense is, as always, is getting the annual flu vaccine. Both the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics urge anyone who is six months of age and older to get flu the shot, as it is one of the most effective ways to protect against the influenza virus. Parents and kids alike can receive the flu shot from a primary healthcare provider, pharmacy, or even many urgent cares.

While some parents may be hesitant to visit the doctor’s office during a pandemic, it is important to know that clinics and hospitals have implemented safety precautions that prevent the spread of infection, including masking, social distancing, and frequent disinfection measures, to name just a few. While it may feel like venturing out to get your family’s flu shots may feel like a risk, it could be more of a risk not to get the vaccine at all.

The biggest concern that healthcare providers are facing this season is the likelihood that COVID-19 and the influenza viruses will overlap. Since both viruses have similar symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, sore throat, and muscle pains or body aches), it will be a challenging season to navigate. Flu vaccination will help decrease the cases of influenza during this overlapping winter season, which is even more of a reason to be sure you and your family is protected.

You might be wondering if getting a flu vaccine could lend some protection against COVID-19. The answer is no, but there are important benefits of the having flu vaccination—namely protecting against the flu! The CDC says it is more important than ever to get a flu vaccine this fall, as it will help reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and even death. It will also help conserve potentially scarce healthcare resources due to the coronavirus and hospitals capacities to care for the critically ill.

Addressing the importance of the 2020 fall flu season, the CDC has already begun to make vaccinations more available by purchasing an additional 2 million doses of pediatric flu vaccine and 9.3 million doses of adult flu vaccine.

Children’s Hospital New Orleans will be one site where kids can receive these vital vaccines in a clean and safe environment. Flu shots will be administered at the hospital’s main campus, pediatric clinics across the Greater New Orleans area, through the Greater New Orleans Immunizations Network, and in partnership with schools and other organizations to best reach our at risk communities.

The mission of Children’s Hospital New Orleans is to care for the kids of Louisiana and their families, and part of that is protecting them against the flu and other infectious diseases. No matter what this flu season holds in store for us, the expert pediatric providers at Children’s Hospital remain dedicated to providing expert care for kids as we continue to closely follow the guidelines of the CDC and our government leaders.