ACROSS AMERICA — With no end in sight to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the United States is poised to enter a flu season unlike any in recent history.
As the country reaches 7.2 million confirmed cases of coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts the United States will see anywhere from 39 million to 56 million influenza cases this flu season. To curb a potential strain on U.S. health care providers and hospitals, the CDC says getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever this year.
However, a new national poll conducted by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital reveals that not all parents are getting the message.
Despite public health recommendations, the poll by the University of Michigan-affiliated hospital says only 1 in 3 parents believe getting the flu vaccine for their child is more important this year than in years prior.
Perhaps more telling is that among parents whose children did not get the flu vaccine last year, only 28 percent say their child is more likely to receive it this year.
Conducted in August, the nationwide poll was taken of nearly 2,000 parents with at least one child aged 2-18.
Here are some other key findings from the poll:
Aside from parents who believe a flu vaccine is more important this year, 8 percent say it is less important and 58 percent say it is about the same.
Nearly all — 96 percent — intend to have their child get the flu vaccine this year. However, most parents in this group reported their child also received the flu vaccine last year.
Of the 68 percent of parents who plan to get their child a flu vaccine this year, 49 percent said they were very likely to get the vaccine.
So, why the hesitance? Parents have several reasons.
According to the poll, the most common reasons parents don’t plan to get their child vaccinated include concerns about side effects or believing the flu vaccine isn’t necessary or effective. A smaller number — about 1 in 7 parents — say they are keeping their children away from health care facilities because of COVID-19.
See full poll results at mottpoll.org.
In the United States, a typical flu season occurs in the fall and winter months. While influenza viruses circulate year-round, flu activity typically peaks between December and February, although activity can last as late as May.
According to the CDC, the vaccine helps prevent millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor’s visits each year. For example, during the 2018-19 flu season, the flu vaccine prevented an estimated 4.4 million influenza illnesses, 2.3 million influenza-associated medical visits, 58,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations, and 3,500 influenza-associated deaths.
During seasons when flu vaccine viruses are similar to circulating flu viruses, the vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor with flu by 40 percent to 60 percent.
CDC guidance says everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every season, with rare exceptions.
The vaccine also is particularly important for people considered high risk for serious complications from influenza. This includes people who are 65 and older, pregnant, or have asthma or diabetes; it also includes young children and children with neurological conditions.
Those in favor of vaccinating children and adults often point to its high effectiveness in preventing people from becoming sick. But opponents reference cases in which they claim a vaccinated person has become ill from the same disease for which the immunization was designed to avert.
Rumors and myths have clouded the debate, with countless reputable studies exposing reports of dangers of flu shots and other widely used vaccinations as unfounded.
READ MORE: 5 Myths About Vaccines As Flu Season Approaches
According to the CDC, symptoms of the flu and the coronavirus are similar. Diagnostic testing is the best way to help determine if you are sick with the flu or COVID-19.
Flu symptoms include:
Fever or feeling feverish/chills (though not everyone with flu will have a fever)
Runny or stuffy nose
Muscle or body aches
Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
If you plan to get the flu vaccine this year, the CDC’s VaccineFinder will help you find flu vaccine clinics in your area.
This article originally appeared on the Across America Patch