Child Protection from Infections in Spotlight for Flu Awareness Week

Eric Tegethoff | Public News Service
The rate of flu shots administered was up in 2020, but down for children younger than four. Photo Credit: Studio Romantic / Adobe Stock

SPOKANE, Wash. — It is National Influenza Vaccination Week, and one Washington doctor is spotlighting the importance of protecting children from the virus this season.

Dr. Melissa Quisano, a family medicine specialist at Kaiser Permanente in Spokane, said the spread of flu goes up in winter as people gather for the holidays.

“Unfortunately, the more we gather in enclosed spaces, the more we share our germs,” Quisano explained. “We want to protect ourselves and protect our loved ones, so it’s definitely important to get those vaccines before you’re gathering with family or even larger crowds.”

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed the number of flu shots administered to children younger than four last year was down from previous years. The number of shots decreased almost 14% for kids ages six months to 23 months, and nearly 12% for children ages two to four in 2020.

Quisano pointed out a similar decline in children getting immunizations is likely because families were asked to stay home during the pandemic, noting she is happy they listened.

“Except that the unfortunate result of this is that a lot of those children maybe missed their usual well-child checks, which is when we most often will give their vaccinations, their immunizations,” Quisano lamented. “A lot of children missed their regularly scheduled immunizations as well.”

According to the Washington State Department of Health, routine vaccines like Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis), which is required to enter seventh grade in the state, were down 11% last year. Shots for meningococcal disease were down more than 8% for 11- and 12-year-olds.

Quisano added she understands people have a lot of questions about vaccines.

“I just encourage families, if they have any questions, to please feel free to reach out to their primary-care clinician,” Quisano advised. “We’re happy to answer those questions.”