Flu season is right around the corner.
If the flu hasn’t really been on your radar for the past few years, you’re not alone! Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the flu has taken a backseat. With COVID-19 protocols like masking and social distancing, the past few flu seasons in the U.S. have been milder than pre-pandemic levels.
But experts predict this year may bring one of the worst flu seasons we’ve seen in a while. There’s also a good chance COVID-19 cases will surge this winter. This could lead to an unprecedented overburden on our healthcare system.
“This could very well be the year in which we see a twindemic,” says Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease professor at Vanderbilt University. “That is, we could have a surge in COVID-19 and simultaneously an increase in influenza. We could have them both affecting our population at the same time.”
Some experts look at what happens during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter (flu season) as an indicator of what the U.S. might experience. And this winter, the flu returned to some countries, such as Australia, where the respiratory infection started ramping up months earlier than normal, and caused one of the worst flu seasons in recent years.
“If we have a serious influenza season, and if the Omicron variants continue to cause principally mild disease, this coming winter could be a much worse flu season than COVID,” Schaffner warns.
And the combination of the two viruses could seriously strain the health system, he says. The CDC estimates that flu causes between 140,00 and 710,000 hospitalizations annually.
It’s more important than ever before to protect yourself, your family, and your community against the flu.
Flu shots are available for everyone at StarMed and are free with insurance. You can schedule your flu vaccination here, or walk-ins are also welcome.
If you’re still unsure about whether or not to get your flu shot, here are answers to some common flu questions.
Who is the flu vaccination for?
The CDC recommends that people ages 6 months and older receive flu vaccinations by late October.
Flu shots are especially recommended for anyone who might be at a higher risk of flu-related complications. Age and health factors leading to an increased risk include:
- Adults 65 years and older
- Children younger than 2 years old
- Kidney and liver disorders
- A weakened immune system
- Blood disorders
- Heart disease
Is it safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster and a flu shot at the same time?
Yes.The CDC originally recommended a two-week gap between COVID-19 and other vaccinations, since it was closely monitoring reactions for this new vaccine.
It’s now 100% safe to get your COVID-19 shot or booster and flu vaccination at the same time, and if you tend to put off shots, it’s a great idea to get both at once and just be done for a while.
For people who have not gotten the COVID-19 vaccine, does it matter if they get the flu vaccine with the first or second dose?
No, it does not matter. But we recommend getting the flu vaccine as soon as possible.
When is the best time to get a flu shot?
The CDC recommends that people age 6 months or older receive a flu vaccination, which is effective for about six months, by late October. Certain children may need a booster shot after the initial vaccination. Check with your primary care physician.
How can one person’s flu vaccination possibly save lives?
As we’ve seen with asymptomatic cases of COVID-19, people can unknowingly have the flu and affect vulnerable elderly, children, and those who have impaired immune systems, such as cancer patients and people with HIV or pulmonary disease.
The more you suppress the flu through vaccination, the less opportunity the virus has to mutate and infect more people. You’ll also have lower viral loads and will shed the virus – and be infectious – for shorter periods of time.
How can a flu shot help me if I do contract the flu?
Getting a flu shot reduces your odds of getting sick. If you do get sick, your illness will most likely be less severe. A 2018 study found that flu vaccination among adults reduced the risk of being admitted to an intensive care unit with flu by 59% and a 2014 study showed that flu vaccination reduced children’s risk of flu-related pediatric intensive care unit admission by 74%.
Is the flu shot safe?
Flu vaccines are the most tested and adverse effects are small. Extremely rare side effects like an allergic reaction can happen, but the risk is still lower than with many other common medications.
Unless someone with an egg allergy has had an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine in the past, they should get the vaccine. If their allergy is serious, they should be monitored while taking the shot.
Can you get the flu from the flu vaccine?
The vaccine takes two weeks to be effective, so people still could contract the flu during this period. The vaccine exposes your body to a weakened form of the virus, which allows you to mount an immune response. Essentially, you are getting a “mini flu” illness, which is why some people may feel ill after getting the vaccine.
Schedule flu shots for the whole family at StarMed, and keep everyone you love safe and protected. Flu shots are FREE with insurance.