AAOM Board Member Dr. Tisa Johnson Hooper: I’m a doctor. Here’s why kids need the flu vaccine this year (Op-Ed)

MICHIGAN CHAPTER AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS THE CHECKUP YOUR PREMIER PEDIATRIC CONNECTION MIAAP Member Dr. Tisa Johnson-Hooper Pens Op-Ed for The Detroit News Johnson-Hooper: I'm a doctor. Here's why kids need the flu vaccine this year | Opinion Flu season came in full force this year, and it has yet to fade. We saw an earlier-than-usual peak in October, and cases stayed high throughout the holidays. People with the flu filled hospital beds across Michigan and children missed school, while their parents missed work to care for them. Three months into the current flu season, 17,000 people have died across the U.S., including 91 children. To put this in context, during all of last year's flu season there were 44 pediatric deaths. In the flu season prior, there was one. We believe the flu is worse this year mainly because we lack the protections we used during the worst of COVID - masks, social distancing and frequent hand-washing. Because the same measures that are used to prevent COVID infection protect against the flu, the past few flu seasons were relatively mild. Reduced COVID protections have now left us more vulnerable to the flu - particularly children. Kids under 5, especially babies and toddlers, have had little to no exposure to the flu in their lifetime, which means they have little to no immunity against it - which makes available defenses like vaccines more crucial than ever. Complications of the flu include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections and worsening chronic medical conditions, such as asthma or diabetes. Children under 5 and those with chronic health conditions are at higher risk for developing serious complications if infected. There is also a possibility this winter of co-infection. RSV cases have soared, landing very young children in the hospital. COVID continues to infect thousands of Michigan residents each week. The activity of three viral infections circulating simultaneously - a "tripledemic" - makes it even more critical to ensure children are inoculated against the flu. Ninety-one child deaths already this flu season is 91 too many.