With public attention zeroing in on COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5-11, area physicians are also reminding parents not to forget flu shots for their kids.

In a Tuesday news conference, Dr. Sharon Robinson, an Evanston pediatrician with NorthShore University HealthSystem, explained that both COVID and the flu are contagious respiratory illnesses.

“Your child can get both COVID and the flu at the same time,” the hospital chain quotes Robinson as saying. “A ‘twindemic,’ she adds, “is a possibility.”

Ironically, last year’s flu season was less serious than usual, because COVID-related quarantines, mask-wearing, and social distancing reduced the flu’s spread.

This year’s impact is unclear, but Robinson said “there is concern that this flu season could potentially be very serious, since last year reduced the population’s chance to build immunity.”

Doctors are already noticing an increase in other childhood respiratory illnesses, such as RSV.

All children six month and older should receive a flu shot, Robinson said, along with all adults in the household.

NorthShore is part of the Chicagoland Children’s Health Alliance. Joining Robinson at the news conference in Wilmette were representatives from Advocate Children’s Hospital and Comer Children’s Hospital/University of Chicago.

Dr. Frank Belmonte, Chief Medical Officer at Advocate, said if government regulatory approval takes place as expected, COVID vaccinations for children ages 5-11 in the Chicago area could begin within a week or so.

Even as that eligibility is almost here, Belmonte said it’s also very important to get children over age 12, who are currently approved for the shots, vaccinated against COVID.

He noted there has been a dramatic increase in COVID cases among children nationwide due to the Delta variant, including nearly 600 deaths. According to the CDC, only 43% of those ages 12-15 are fully vaccinated, as compared to 56% for the population at large.

Dr. Alison Bartlett, of Comer Children’s, said that “Clinical trials in children and the intense scrutiny have shown that the science is clear — the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks of not getting it.”

And while few are particularly thrilled about rolling up the sleeve and feeling the pinch,, Dr. Robinson noted that it is safe and effective for both the COVID vaccination and a flu shot to be given simultaneously.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.