Flu vaccination is off to a slow start for children and pregnant women this fall, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
About 22% of children have been vaccinated this season compared to 28% at the same time last year. Likewise, about 23% of pregnant women have been vaccinated, down from 38%.
The AAP and CDC have stressed the importance of everyone 6 months and older getting vaccinated. Flu vaccines can be co-administered with COVID-19 vaccines for people ages 12 years and older.
The CDC attributed the declines to vaccine fatigue, low levels of flu last season, confusion about the need for the vaccine and people making fewer trips to vaccine providers due to the pandemic.
The findings are concerning as flu vaccine coverage for children already was down last season when about 59% got a flu vaccine compared to 64% in 2019-’20, according to a recent CDC report.
That drop in vaccination came on the heels of a record-breaking 2019-’20 flu season in which 199 children died, 80% of whom were unvaccinated. About 20,000 children are hospitalized from flu each year, according to the CDC.
There was little flu activity in the 2020-’21 flu season, likely due to COVID-19 precautions like masking, social distancing and staying home, CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., said earlier this month. But as people start to relax those precautions, flu could start to spread again. The CDC already has seen an increase in other respiratory illnesses like respiratory syncytial virus, and Dr. Walensky said little disease last year means lower population immunity for this season.