With students returning to the classroom in a matter of weeks, Western Mass News reached out to a local pediatrician to see how COVID-19 and the approaching flu season is impacting their work this time of year.

EAST LONGMEADOW, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- With students returning to the classroom in a matter of weeks, Western Mass News reached out to a local pediatrician to see how COVID-19 and the approaching flu season is impacting their work this time of year.

“We did not see a lot of influenza last year all…I think that’s going to change this year,” said Dr. John Kelley with Redwood Pediatrics.

Kelley said he’s seen an increase in patient check-ups compared to year’s past due to the pandemic and he’s using these appointments as an opportunity to play catch up.

“Certainly, when we’re seeing kids who haven’t been seen in a year and a half, two years, because of the pandemic, we’re catching them up on vaccines when we see them,” Kelley noted.

One mother we spoke with said she just took her three-year-old in for his first annual check-up and she’s feeling the added push to get him in for his flu shot.

“My kids get flu shots every year, we all get get flu shots every year…I mean we want to be ready for whatever happens, so we can avoid everything at all costs,” said Shawntay Kennedy-Cruz.

However, another parent, who works as a teacher in Connecticut, is not in any rush just yet.

“There hasn’t been any push. My wife’s a pharmacist and I know at the pharmacy she works at, they just pretty much opened up, so I’m sure there will be a push shortly,” said Brett Lowman.

Kelley told Western Mass News masks played a big role in limiting flu cases last winter.

“If we did this every single winter with a mask on, our influenza rates would plummet,” Kelley explained.

He also noted that he’s seen an increase in upper respiratory infections and colds, which often leads to a COVID-19 test.

“I think we’re going to be doing a lot of testing for COVID-19 once kids get sick, when they get a routine cough, runny nose, fever,” Kelley said.

Kelley said getting a flu shot now may not be suitable for everyone.

“It might be too early to vaccinate older adults who are more susceptible to influenza as far as significant hospitalization. The goal is flu before Halloween,” Kelley noted.

However, he’ll be administering shots to children as soon as his practice receives them.

“Strike while the iron’s hot. If I have a chance to vaccinate them, I will,” Kelley said.

We have learned that CVS is now booking flu shot appointments at some locations.

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