In a Covid-19 task force meeting with Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackery in May, a discussion on the positive effects of flu vaccine for children to avoid hospitalization due to influenza took place. But akin to a game of ‘Chinese whispers’, the topic in its entirety was misinterpreted and most people who half-heard it ended up concluding flu vaccine as a the protector for kids to avoid the severity of the coronavirus third wave. Schools in various parts of the country ended up sending across emails to parents to get flu jabs for their children.
Dr Basavaraja GV, General Secretary, Indian Academy of Pediatrics who is also a part of the High Level Expert Committee for Prevention and Management of Covid Wave 3 in Karnataka, busted the myth around flu vaccine for kids.
“Flu vaccination is included in India’s vaccination program. It is given for children aged 6 months to 5 years. It is effective for Influenza and symptoms related to it. Influenza. But in India, the general immunity of the population against flu is better than United States and other countries. Hence vaccination for flu is very regular there (almost yearly) while we don’t need it here.”
Elaborating on it, he added, “Also, children with immune disorders, diabetics, issues with regard to kidney, liver, lungs, heart and other vital organs or on cancer treatments are prescribed flu vaccine. But even that is for a limited period of time.”
Asked if the flu vaccine is in any way effective for the Covid-19, Dr Basavaraja clarifies, “Certainly Not. The various vaccinations for flu are never proven effective against Covid 19. There are no instances where flu vaccination has helped a child or anyone cure Covid-19.”
There is no assurance that flu vaccine will help kids fight the anticipated third wave or Covid-19. It may protect the child from influenza. But unless the child already has pre-existing health issues and the pediatricians suggest, taking a vaccine for flu is completely unnecessary, he says.
“Children’s bodies are already strong enough to fight small infections and can be treated in OPDs if anything needed. It is not advisable to get a flu jab to the child unless suggested by a pediatrician,” Dr Basavaraja says.
Certain coaching classes and sports teams in Bengaluru are suggesting their members to come in after taking the flu vaccine. Since Covid vaccination for children is not permitted yet, they feel flu jabs will avoid children being hospitalized for flu and similar symptoms. But pediatricians have already negated it. “When you already have good immune power to fight small infections like cold, fever and such things why do you want to take a vaccine which does the same job?’ asks Dr Raghunath CN, Consultant pediatrician, Sagar Hospitals who is also a part of the state government’s expert team to tackle third wave targeting children.
“Every day a bunch of parents end up in hospitals wanting to get flu vaccine for their children. We try and convince them that it is totally unnecessary and will definitely not help fight Covid-19. Rather we suggest them to be cautious and strictly adhere to all protocols in place,” Dr Raghunath says.
“It is better if people are aware and stay alert with regard to their child’s health rather than panic. Everything possible is being done and people should not take any decision with regard to treatment and medicines without consulting their physician, agree both the specialists,” he concludes.