|Dear NAP Families,
We are sure you have all seen the news stories about children’s emergency departments, hospitals, and ICUs across the country being at or above capacity for the past several weeks. Locally, Baystate ER visit volumes are breaking records every month, wait times are excessive, and children who need admission are having to stay in the room for days in the ER until a bed opens up. The main driver of this surge of illness right now is RSV, one cause of the “common cold” that goes around each year with mild to moderate symptoms in older children and adults but can cause severe difficulty breathing in younger children who have smaller lungs and have not been exposed to the virus before. This year, not only infants are coming into contact with this virus for the first time but toddlers and pre-school aged children as well. COVID gave us a nice break from many of these respiratory illnesses for a few years, but the result is a much larger number of kids being vulnerable to the more severe effects.
Unfortunately, RSV is not the only culprit for causing severe illness in children this season. The flu (influenza) has already started to show up in our community with both Flu A and Flu B strains being detected at the same time. This arrival of the flu is earlier than usual, and it is also atypical to have both strains circulating at once. The past few seasons have seen very low levels of influenza so the prediction is that this season will be particularly hard, just like we are seeing with RSV. In a typical season, influenza causes thousands of deaths in children nationwide. In a season where children are at higher risk and the availability of emergency room and hospital beds is already tight, these numbers could be even more grim.
OK, enough of the bad news. The good news is that there is something you can do about it – RIGHT NOW! While there is no vaccine for RSV, there is a vaccine against the flu that is safe and effective. Most years, the flu vaccine completely prevents flu infection in up to 50-60% of vaccinated kids and significantly reduces the severity of symptoms in kids who do get the flu after the vaccine. The vast majority of pediatric hospitalizations and deaths from the flu are in children who did not receive the vaccine. According to the AAP, up to 80% of influenza-associated pediatric deaths occur in children who did not receive the flu vaccine. In addition, the vaccine reduces the risk of severe illness requiring ICU admission by 75%. So, while the vaccine may not prevent all cases of the flu, it offers significant protection against severe and life-threatening disease (“AAP Recommendations for Prevention and control of Influenza in Children, 2022-2023”).We are pleading with all of you to schedule your child for a flu vaccine as soon as possible, either in our office or at a local pharmacy. Even if you don’t traditionally choose to get this vaccine for your family, this year is a very different situation. We need the help of the whole community to keep illness levels as low as we can so that children who do get sick will be able to be cared for in our office and at the hospital. We are already seeing what happens when too many kids get sick at the same time, and we worry the system will not be able to flex much more to accommodate the next wave.
Please choose to protect your child and the children in your community by getting the flu vaccine.
NAP has hired a nurse who will be working exclusively in our flu and COVID clinics. We have open availability on evenings and weekends for all our patients – see the schedule below. You can log onto the MyChart portal to schedule your flu shot appointment today or go to your local pharmacy website to book an appointment there.
Northampton Area Pediatrics
Vaccine Clinics Available!!!
Wednesday – December 14th – 9a – 12 p – Flu
Tuesday – Nov 15th – 4-7p – Flu
Sunday – Nov 27th – 10a – 3p – COVID
Tuesday – Nov 29th – 4-7p – COVID
Tuesday – Dec 6th – 4-7p – COVID
Monday – Dec 12th – 4-7p – Flu
Monday – Dec 19th – 4-7p – Flu
Tuesday – Dec 27th – 4-7p – COVID