Doctors urge everyone over 6 months to get flu shots before Halloween

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago pediatric doctors warned Monday that everyone over 6 months should get the flu shot before Halloween.

"This year's flu shot may be more important than ever before," said Dr. Frank Belmonte, of Advocate Children's Hospital.

Last season was the deadliest for the flu in four decades; more than 900,000 people were hospitalized, and 80,000 died including 180 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Eighty-five percent of victims were not vaccinated.

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Last season was the deadliest for the flu in four decades -- 80,000 dead including 180 kids. Eighty-five percent of victims were not vaccinated.

Fall has barely begun and influenza has already killed one young child in Florida. That pediatric patient had not been vaccinated.

Dr. John Cunningham, physician in chief at Comer Children's Hospital, said that "the larger number of people in the population that are vaccinated, the less likely we will see a severe flu season."

Nearly half of the dead, 45 percent, had no other health risk factor. Pregnant women especially are vulnerable.

"If women have not been vaccinated against flu with the currently recommended vaccine before they are pregnant, during pregnancy is the right time to get vaccinated during whatever trimester that mom and her caregiver decide is appropriate," said Dr. Matthew Davis, of Lurie Children's Hospital.

The physicians also wanted to debunk myths about the flu shot that they say ill-informed celebrities offer and which live in the echo chamber of social media.

"Let's be quite clear with this," Davis added. "The flu vaccine does not cause influenza."

"So while this has never been shown to cause any significant adverse events, I think all of the families in our community should be getting this vaccine as soon as possible," said Dr. Michael Caplan of NorthShore University HealthSystem.

Getting the flu shot sooner is better, doctors say. The shot lasts nine months. And even if the flu shot is not perfectly designed to fight this year's version of the flu, any protection is better than nothing, doctors say.
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