New research from BC Children's Hospital and UBC researchers suggests the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may drive more parents to immunize their children against the upcoming seasonal influenza strain.

The study, recently published in the Journal of Pediatrics, surveyed nearly 3,000 families from Canada, Israel, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the United States who visited 17 different emergency departments between mid-March to the end of June. Families were asked how COVID-19 has influenced their willingness to vaccinate their children in preparation for the flu season. 

Dr. Ran GoldmanMore than half (54 per cent) of parents surveyed globally plan to vaccinate their children against the flu this year—an increase of nearly 16 per cent from last year. Among parents who did not vaccinate their children last year, more than a quarter (nearly 29 per cent) plan to vaccinate for the upcoming season.

“Public health officials worldwide are concerned about the potential harmful combination of the COVID-19 infection with influenza in the upcoming season, and immunizing children will be critical in protecting both children and adults against those viral infections,” says the study’s lead author Dr. Ran Goldman, an investigator at BC Children’s, emergency pediatrician, and professor in the UBC faculty of medicine’s department of pediatrics.

The research team, comprised of scientists from Canada, the United States, Europe and Japan, found that, among families who did not vaccinate last year, the level of concern that their child may have COVID-19 at the time of the emergency department visit was an important motivator for immunizing their children against the flu this year. 

Overall, parents were more likely to plan to immunize their children if they were worried about the child having COVID-19, if their child was up-to-date on their vaccines other than influenza, and if the parent received the flu vaccine last year.

“Understanding parents’ plans for the upcoming influenza season will help us respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and future public health needs,” says Dr. Goldman.

This study is part of a broader examination by Goldman to explore parents’ concerns, thoughts, and actions related to the health and wellbeing of their children during COVID-19.

Credit UBC News Story, August 13, 2020