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Flu vaccine is an essential preventive step for children

By DR. ANDREA WILLIS
Parents have spent the majority of 2020 taking steps to protect themselves and their children from COVID-19, all while balancing work, life and education, many from home. With a complicated start to the school year and a pandemic that is persistently lingering, many families are simply exhausted.
With flu season upon us, vigilance is more important than ever. The flu severely impacts children every year, and the flu vaccine is a necessary preventive step.
Vaccines have been proven safe and effective for decades, and most individuals who receive the flu vaccine either avoid contracting the virus or have a milder case if they do. While the severity of the flu varies year to year, studies have shown a flu shot can reduce the likelihood of catching the flu by 40-60%.

That reduction is crucial when considering the flu’s impact nationwide. During the 2019-2020 season, more than 60,000 Americans are estimated to have died as a result of influenza.
Tennessee is certainly not immune. In our state alone, 11 children died from the flu during the 2019-2020 season, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.
Each year some schools close due to the volume of kids who get the flu, as it easily spreads via droplets that result from coughing, sneezing and even talking. COVID-19 has mandated creative solutioning to allow children to return to school safely. Limiting the spread of the flu can help prevent further disruptions and challenges.

(Dr. Andrea D. Willis, MD, MPH, FAAP, is senior vice president and chief medical officer at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee)