A third of American parents don't plan to vaccinate their kids against the flu, according to a new poll from the National Poll on Children's Health.
Experts have warned that this year's flu season and the coronavirus pandemic could overwhelm healthcare systems and spark a further public health crisis in the US.
Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Robert Redfield previously encouraged people to get their flu shots, warning in an interview with WebMD that this "could be the worst fall from a public health perspective we've ever had."
One in three Americans said they had no plans to vaccinate their kids against the flu, a new poll from the National Poll on Children's Health published on Monday.
The findings come as experts have advised adults and children alike to get their flu shot ahead of the fall and winter seasons that are expected to see cases of both the flu and COVID-19.
"We may see peaks of flu and COVID-19 at the same time, which could overwhelm the health care system, strain testing capacity and potentially reduce our ability to catch and treat both respiratory illnesses effectively," Sarah Clark, associate director of the poll from C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, Michigan Medicine, said in a press release.
"Our report finds that even during the pandemic, some parents don't see the flu vaccine as more urgent or necessary," Clark said. "This heightens concerns about how the onset of flu season may compound challenges in managing COVID-19."
Last month, Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Robert Redfield warned that the seasonal flu combined with growing coronavirus cases could amplify the effects of the deadly pandemic and advised Americans to follow health guidelines and get their flu shot.
"I'm asking you to do four simple things: wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands, and be smart about crowds. If you do those four things it will bring this outbreak down," Redfield told WebMD in an interview. "But, if we don't do that … this could be the worst fall from a public health perspective we've ever had."
Nearly 96% of parents who had their children vaccinated last year said in the poll they will again this year. One in three parents, or 34%, responded they believe that having children get flu shots is more important this year compared to other years.
Some parents are choosing not to vaccinate for a variety of reasons, the report said, including concerns over COVID-19 safety in health care settings, as well as some misconceptions that the flu vaccine is unsafe or ineffective.
The flu vaccine is still the safest measure to protect someone from either getting the virus or from experiencing severe influenza symptoms.
"Children should get the flu vaccine not only to protect themselves but to prevent the spread of influenza to family members and those who are at higher risk of serious complications," Clark said.
Since 2010, Influenza has led to somewhere between 7,000 to 26,000 hospitalizations for kids under 5, per CDC estimates. Last flu season, there were 188 pediatric flu deaths.
The CDC also said children can experience severe symptoms like pneumonia and dehydration, the worsening of conditions like asthma, brain dysfunction, and sinus problem or ear infections.
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