The American Academy of Pediatrics, the United States' leading pediatricians' group, released recommendations for the 2022-2023 flu season on Tuesday, urging all children 6 months and older to get vaccinated against influenza this fall.
"Vaccines remain the best way to prevent severe illness and keep kids in classrooms," the statement read. "The AAP observes that vaccination coverage lagged last season and that, historically, the flu has taken a disproportionate toll on families who are Black, Hispanic or American Indian or Alaska Native."
Last year, only 55% of kids were vaccinated against the flu. The organization stressed that it's especially important for kids to get the flu shot because COVID-19 is continuing to circulate.
"We should not underestimate the flu," Dr. Kristina Bryant, lead author of AAP's policy statement, said in a press release. "Besides making your child miserable and wreaking havoc on your family’s routine, influenza can also be serious and even deadly in children."
Parents should ask their pediatricians to administer the flu vaccine to children 6 months and older as soon as it is available, ideally by the end of October, per AAP. Other recommendations to keep in mind include:
- Both the intramuscular shot and the nasal spray are good options. The AAP doesn't prefer one over the other.
- Caregivers and close contacts of medically vulnerable children should also receive a flu shot.
- Kids eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine or booster can receive it at the same time as the flu shot.
- Pregnant women can safely receive the flu shot any time during pregnancy, and it's also safe for breastfeeding moms and babies.
Some children should also receive two flu shots this year. Here's what to know.
Does your child need two flu shots this year?
The AAP recommended three groups of kids get two flu shots this year, spaced at least four weeks apart:
- Children 6 months through 8 years old who are getting the flu shot for the first time in their lives
- Children 6 months through 8 years old who've only gotten the flu shot once before
- Children 6 months through 8 years old whose vaccination status is unknown
2022-2023 flu season: What to expect
The AAP's guidance comes as experts have said to expect a worse flu season this year. Australia's flu season, often a harbinger for what will happen in the U.S., was its worst in five years. But this is just one of a few reasons it's important to get kids their flu shot this year: Vaccination rates among kids have fallen amid the pandemic, and the last couple of flu seasons have been mild due to pandemic restrictions, meaning many kids haven't been exposed to the virus and are more vulnerable as a result.
“We haven’t had much flu, so people haven’t really been motivated to go out and get their kids vaccinated," Dr. Mark Kline, physician-in-chief at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, told NBC News.
So this year, with many kids back in classrooms full-time, it's more important than ever to get the flu shot and make sure they're caught up on all routine vaccinations, such as polio.