As you get ready to send your child with asthma back to school, add one more item to the top of your list: Get the COVID-19, flu, and pneumococcal vaccines.
If your child has asthma, they should get both the flu and pneumococcal vaccines. Having asthma puts your child in a high-risk category when it comes to flu and pneumococcal disease. These shots can go a long way toward keeping your child healthy this school year. They should get the flu shot every year as early as possible. But they only have to get the pneumococcal vaccine once, with a booster shot every few years. Your child may have even gotten the pneumococcal vaccine as part of the recommended vaccine schedule for children. Check with your child’s doctor.
If your child is 6 months or older, they should get the COVID-19 vaccine. Studies continue to show people with asthma are not at increased risk of COVID-19 infection or severity. But if your child is returning to in-person learning this school year, they should get the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 shots. If they are 18 or older, they can also get the Novavax or Johnson & Johnson (in certain situations) vaccines.
If you plan to have your child get a COVID-19 shot, make plans to get it now so they will be fully vaccinated before school starts. Your child is not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks have passed after the final dose in their primary series of shots. Find a local vaccination site and schedule your child’s free shot at vaccines.gov.
Here are some reasons why children need these vaccines for the new school year:
1. Your child has a better chance of avoiding the September Asthma Epidemic.
Every September, asthma rates spike, especially among school-aged children. More children go to the hospital for asthma during this month. After school starts, they are exposed to more allergens and respiratory infections. These can trigger asthma episodes or attacks that need emergency medical attention. It’s best to get them vaccinated as soon as possible to avoid complications from infections listed below.
2. COVID-19, the flu, and pneumococcal disease can be serious.
A school can be a hot bed of germs. This makes it easier for your child to come in contact with viruses and bacteria, like the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the flu, and pneumococcal bacteria.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness. It can affect your lungs if you have asthma. This means your child could have serious problems if they get the flu. It can cause complications like pneumonia, an infection that causes your lungs to be swollen and fill with fluid.
People with food allergies can get the flu and COVID-19 shots.
If your child has asthma and an egg allergy, they can still get the flu vaccine. Studies show that the flu shot is safe for everyone with an egg allergy, even if you have had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to eggs.
Children with food allergies can get the COVID-19 shot since none of the vaccines contain or contact any food proteins or derivatives.
Pneumococcal disease is a serious bacterial infection. It can cause pneumonia, meningitis, bloodstream infections (sepsis), and ear infections. Children with asthma are at a greater risk of getting pneumonia if they are exposed to pneumococcal bacteria.
COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Some people may have mild symptoms, while some may have complications, like severe pneumonia. Certain people are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
3. It’s part of a solid asthma management plan.
Asthma is a chronic disease that cannot be cured but can be managed. Preventing symptoms is one of the best ways to manage your child’s asthma. Your child’s doctor will probably recommend the flu and pneumococcal shots as part of an ongoing treatment plan.
4. Many children have skipped wellness visits and vaccines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic set many people behind on doctors' visits, wellness checks, and vaccinations. Now is the time to get your child back on track, if you haven't already. The beginning of a new school year is also a good time to have your child’s asthma action plan updated.
5. These shots are some of the best ways to protect your child with asthma and other people.
If your child with asthma gets the flu or pneumonia, they have a higher chance of episodes, attacks, and complications. This could mean many missed school days, poor school performance, and even hospitalizations. Both illnesses can also cause death, especially among high-risk groups like young children and those with asthma.
COVID-19 spreads easily and can be serious for some people – such as older adults, people affected by systemic health and social inequities, and people with certain medical conditions – so you will want to vaccinate your child to help prevent the spread if they are old enough to receive one of the vaccines.
Protect your child by getting them and your entire family vaccinated for a healthy and successful school year.
Published August 2017, updated August 2022