HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The brutal flu season doctors have been warning of is finally here. Over 12-thousand infections have already been reported across the Commonwealth, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Public Health.

“We’re seeing the flu season hit much earlier and much harder,” UPMC Infectious Disease Expert Dr. John Goldman said. “Usually, peak flu season is in January or February. We’re seeing levels that are five, six and seven times higher than what we typically see for this time of year.”

Goldman also said that pediatric influenza vaccines are down. Only 50-thousand kids across their seven healthcare centers have gotten their flu shot this year. That number was over 110-thousand last season.

“I kind of attribute that to a side effect of the vaccine hesitancy that we’ve seen with COVID-19,” Goldman said. “There’s been so much negative publicity surrounding vaccines, I think it spills over into vaccines that aren’t new [and] that have had a well established safety record.”

Goldman said that the flu vaccine decreasing a persons chance of contracting the virus by about 50-percent.

“Most importantly, it takes your chances of getting hospitalized with the flu down at 90-percent,” Goldman emphasized.