After a few months of really believing the world was opening up, and that kids could be kids again, the Delta variant emerged, and very quickly, we are all on edge again, masking up indoors (even if vaccinated), and wondering what the fall will bring, especially for our kids. We look to each other, to our trusted doctors, and even to the news for some sort of guidance or answers on how to navigate these unchartered waters!
We are so fortunate to be partnered with some incredibly talented and brilliant doctors right nearby at Connecticut Children’s. Their Back to School Kit shares expert advice on all things Covid, including the Delta variant, and explains how to balance the upcoming flu season – and getting flu shots – with the Covid vaccine, especially as It becomes available to younger kids!
Right around now, between soaking up the end of summer and racing through your family’s back-to-school checklist, you’re probably trying to schedule your child’s yearly well visit with their pediatrician – including that old standby, the annual flu shot. But this year, there’s a twist: A COVID-19 vaccine for kids under 12 could be ready soon, too.
Should you try to space out your child’s vaccinations? Plan them together? What’s safe, and what’s even possible? For answers, we turned to Juan C. Salazar, MD, MPH, FAAP, physician-in-chief at Connecticut Children’s.
THE BEST TIME TO GET YOUR CHILD’S FLU SHOT
According to Dr. Salazar, children and teens should get their seasonal flu shot as soon as it becomes available – usually, late summer.
Why so soon? Kids’ bodies work differently than adults’, including a longer-lasting immune response to the flu shot. So while we adults are often told to wait until September or October to get jabbed, a shot in August easily protects most kids through May. It’s also a lot more convenient to get it now, before pediatricians’ schedules fill up. If you miss the late-summer window, adds Dr. Salazar, make sure your child gets their flu shot by the end of October, before flu season peaks. (And if you miss that deadline too? A late flu shot is better than none at all, so schedule it ASAP.)
THE BEST TIME TO GET YOUR CHILD’S COVID-19 VACCINE
Here, the advice from Dr. Salazar is even simpler: Your child should get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they’re old enough to be eligible. For many kids, that’s right now! With the Delta variant at large and school about to start, the vaccine is not only the best way to protect kids from COVID-19, “it’s also the best way to set them up for full participation in school and favorite activities,” says Dr. Salazar, “since quarantine requirements are often different for kids who are fully vaccinated.”
Keep in mind that it takes a couple weeks for your child’s immune system to build up protection after their final vaccine dose. In other words? The sooner you start, the better.
WHAT IF THERE’S OVERLAP BETWEEN YOUR CHILD’S FLU SHOT & COVID-19 VACCINE?
Good news! No need to stress over scheduling. The CDC says it’s safe for kids to get the COVID-19 vaccine at – or around – the same time as other routine vaccines, including the flu shot. Both shots should still work just as well, and the side effects will be the same minor inconveniences – like a mild fever, headache, or sore arm.
When it comes to simplifying your life, there’s more good news: For Pfizer’s two-dose COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Salazar says there’s no difference between how the first and second dose could interact with a flu shot – so your child could get their flu shot around the same time as either COVID-19 dose.
Wondering if it’s really necessary for your child to get both? Absolutely, says Dr. Salazar. “When we get sick with one virus, it puts us at a higher risk of catching another virus,” says Dr. Salazar. It’s extremely important to protect kids from both COVID-19 and the flu.
CAN YOU SCHEDULE ONE APPOINTMENT FOR BOTH VACCINES?
It might be a little tricky to schedule your child’s flu shot and COVID-19 shot at the exact same appointment, especially in Connecticut, because most private pediatric offices in the state don’t have the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on hand just yet. But talk to your child’s pediatrician, because COVID-19 vaccine supplies might be changing.
Wherever your child gets their vaccines, keep your pediatrician in the loop.“Your child’s pediatrician should always be your main point of contact for any health questions or updates,” says Dr. Salazar.
EVERYTHING ELSE YOUR CHILD’S PEDIATRICIAN WANTS YOU TO KNOW
While you’re planning your child’s flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine, don’t forget to catch up on other health needs too! Your child’s yearly well visit is the perfect time to get any required sports physical examinations, and check on their physical and mental health. And if you or your child start to feel overwhelmed by the new school year, take a deep breath. You’re not in this alone. “Talk to your child’s pediatrician about any questions or concerns you have about your child’s health, whether physical or mental,” says Dr. Salazar. “We’re here to help.”
For lots of back-to-school resources from Dr. Salazar and other pediatric experts – from tips for morning routines to the most important COVID-19 updates for kids – check out Connecticut Children’s Back to School Kit.
Connecticut Children’s is the only health system in Connecticut dedicated to children, and named a best children’s hospital in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and Women’s Choice. We provide more than 30 pediatric specialties at convenient locations throughout the region, including by Video Visit. Physician-in-Chief Juan C. Salazar, MD, MPH, FAAP, is a pediatric expert in infectious diseases.