The nation’s largest group of doctors is urging the American public to get the flu shot this season as the medical community grapples with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The American Medical Association (AMA) said the flu vaccine this year “is more important than ever” to protect yourself and the community from influenza.
“Flu vaccination is part of a comprehensive public health strategy to reduce the burden of flu in the population and to preserve scarce health care resources as we continue to respond to the pandemic,” the AMA said in a press release Wednesday.
The message comes just days after a published poll found that as many as one-third of parents do not intend to have their child receive the flu vaccine this year. The poll, conducted by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, found that the most common reasons for vaccination refusal were concerns about side effects and the belief that the vaccine is not necessary or effective. Others said they are not getting their child vaccinated because they are “keeping children away from health care sites due to COVID.”
However, AMA President Dr. Susan R. Bailey said routine vaccination is essential preventative care for children, adolescents and adults, including pregnant women, and that it “should not be delayed because of the pandemic.”
“The location or office might look different, but the need for the flu vaccine is as great as ever,” Bailey said.
The group went so far as to say getting the flu vaccine to prevent the spread of influenza is akin to wearing a mask to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“Vaccines bolster the health of communities as some people cannot be vaccinated – including very young children, cancer patients and those who are immunosuppressed,” the group said. “When immunization rates are high, people in these categories are protected because they’re less likely to be exposed to the disease.”
Bailey said it was important to get vaccinated in the fall months as opposed to when peak flu activity hits in an effort to avoid placing a “tremendous” burden on the health care system already dealing with COVID-19 patients.
“We need to realize that we are all interconnected, and during this pandemic, getting vaccinated is a step to protect our individual and collective health,” Bailey said.
While President Trump has said it will be just a matter of weeks before a coronavirus vaccine candidate is approved, it will be months before it becomes available to the public, and even then officials will face hurdles while trying to formulate mass distribution plans.
At best, health officials have predicted that a vaccine will be available for the greater public by mid-2021, but not everyone is eager to line up for one. A Pew Research Center poll found that just 51% of Americans would get a COVID-19 vaccine if it was available today, and 77% think it will be approved before the safety and effectiveness are fully understood.