The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released guidelines about when children should get the flu vaccine this year, recommending that everyone over the age of 6 months get the vaccine by the end of October.
Experts have emphasized the importance of the flu shot this year in the hopes of avoiding a "combined pandemic" with both the flu and the coronavirus circulating. According to the AAP, public health officials have warned that hospital beds and emergency services could "quickly extend beyond capacity in communities where coronavirus transmission remains high."
NBC News medical contributor Dr. John Torres warned that a "twindemic" of the coronavirus and flu could be dangerous if the flu season is severe. Torres said that since it can take some time for the vaccine to activate in your body and protect against the flu, it's important to get vaccinated sooner rather than later.
"This could be a bad flu season, so they want everybody, especially children, to be prepared for it," Torres explained. "Children 6 months and above (should) get the flu shot. It's important that they start getting it now."
"As a pediatrician, I am very concerned about the health of children and their families this fall if these two potentially deadly viruses are circulating in the community at the same time," said Dr. Flor Munoz, lead author of the recommendations, developed by the AAP committee on infectious diseases, in a press release.
According to the AAP, "any licensed, age-appropriate vaccine is acceptable." Currently, the flu vaccine is administered to children through a shot or nasal spray.
Torres said that it's particularly important to make sure children are protected since last year was a record-tying year for the amount of children who died due to the flu; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 188 children and teens died of complications from influenza during the 2019-2020 season.
According to the AAP, typically about 80% of children who die from the flu are not vaccinated.
Torres also warned that children could spread the virus to other family members.
"You don't want to bring the flu home, much like how you don't want to bring COVID home," he said. "It's important to protect everybody this season."
It's not just children who should be sure to get the vaccine soon — Torres and the AAP both recommend that anyone with preexisting conditions, pregnant women and anyone over the age of 65 get the vaccine soon. All health care professionals should also get the vaccine, according to the AAP.