Oct. 19, 2021 — With the potential for a big herd immunity, which usually comes from a combination of vaccinations and people who were exposed to related strains of the virus, means children in particular could be at high risk of infection this year, says Mark Roberts, MD, director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh.
In a normal year, around 180-200 children die from the flu. But last year, only one death was recorded. “Very few kids got influenza last year, so young kids have almost no natural immunity,” he says.
Children are also a fairly large transmitter of the flu, Roberts says, which makes infections in kids a danger not only to themselves, but to other susceptible people they might come into contact with.
“So it is really important to vaccinate children,” he says.
With the approval of COVID-19 for children younger than 12 expected soon, some parents might be inclined to hold off on flu shots for their kids to avoid any complications. But the CDC says it is safe to get both vaccines close together, or even at the same time.
Munoz says people should be aware that both vaccines can cause reactions and plan ahead, especially if they have had reactions in the past.
“You can take them at the same time, or at different times, as long as you get both vaccines,” she says.
It is never easy to forecast what the upcoming flu season will look like.
“There could be not just more flu this year, but more severe disease as well,” Munoz says.
But it is also possible that we have another mild season if the influenza virus takes longer to bounce back from the extremely low numbers seen over the past year.
“Every flu outbreak is different and unpredictable,” she says.