An indication outdoors our neighborhood pharmacy mentioned vaccine walk-ins had been welcome. Inside, the road to get the shot stretched down an aisle. We weren’t queued up for a COVID-19 vaccine jab, nonetheless: We had been ready for our 2021 flu shot.
Flu season is right here once more, and the infections will overlap with the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, creating the opportunity of a “” of two distinct, harmful sicknesses that trigger (amongst different issues) respiratory misery, hospitalizations and loss of life for thousands and thousands of individuals. Nationwide lockdowns that stored folks distanced, combined with the annual flu shot, largely helped dodge the double blast of infections final yr. However this yr, issues are completely different. Many different viruses, like RSV and rhinovirus, coming again. And the flu probably will observe swimsuit.
Whereas the US noticed a steep rise in coronavirus infections within the winter, the unfold of influenza was uncommonly mild.Nonetheless, this yr may return to the standard sample, through which thousands and thousands of individuals within the US catch the influenza virus, in line with the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, and tens of hundreds die from flu-related causes. With COVID-19 vaccines and now approved — even — intermingling is predicted. And with that, a potential improve within the flu, alongside new waves of delta variant COVID infections at a time when peoples’ stance on masking and social distancing have turn out to be political points, not simply public well being issues.
We talked with three flu-vaccine consultants about what to anticipate this flu season — learn on for his or her sensible steerage and issues. For extra on the flu, here isin 2021, which you could expertise and why epidemiologists recommend taking each .
Get your flu shot. Now
Within the US — and the remainder of the northern hemisphere — flu season normally runs October to Might, in line with the consultants we spoke to. However the flu virus is much less involved with the seasons and extra concerned with spreading. So the timing this yr might be much less predictable, consultants warn, with final yr’s mild flu season and our personal altering behaviors across the pandemic.
However you do not need to attempt to time your flu shot for when the flu will hit. To be prepared, consultants suggest you get your flu vaccine now.
“We have a normal time when we expect the flu,” Peter Chin-Hong, a medical doctor and professor in the Health Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of California, San Francisco, told CNET. “But this year, it could be atypical or drag on longer, so that’s what people need to be prepared for.”
A similar shift in the timing of a seasonal virus infection happened this summer when the US and Japan saw a spike in respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, infections in school children, Chin-Hong said. That’s because students were not exposed to the virus the winter before — when RSV infections normally occur — and so didn’t have immunity built up, which allowed the virus to spread in the summer instead.
What to know about the flu vaccine’s effectiveness this year
Vaccine-makers monitor which flu strains are currently circulating and forecast which are mostly likely to become the dominant strains during the upcoming flu season. These drug manufacturers then produce a flu vaccine — your flu shot — using three and sometimes four of the most likely flu strains.
The effectiveness of the vaccine at preventing infection varies year to year, ranging from 19% efficacy in the 2014-2015 season to 60% in 2010-2011. Last year, the flu shot was 39% effective in preventing infection.
And last flu season, about half of US adults and children got a flu shot, according to the CDC. Combine that with the steps the US took to check the spread of COVID-19, and you get a number of reported flu cases in the US that seems like a typo, it is so unbelievably low: 2,038 flu cases reported during the 2020-2021 flu season vs. 38 million cases reported in the 2019-2020 season.
This year, because of last year’s light flu season, the vaccine-makers had less to go on to make their predictions and created a vaccine containing four likely flu strains — called a quadrivalent flu vaccine — to increase the chances of covering the dominant strain this year.
“There was enough data to make a good educated guess,” said L.J. Tan, chief strategy officer for the Immunization Action Coalition, a nonprofit organization that works to increase vaccination rates. “Right now we are confident we got it right.”
As with the COVID-19 vaccines, the flu shot is not 100% effective in guarding against infection. But like the coronavirus shots, the flu vaccine can blunt the severity of the virus if you do catch it. The CDC said getting vaccinated for flu can reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor 40 to 60%.
And don’t worry about more serious side effects with a four-part flu vaccine: Whether the vaccine is made using three components or four, theshould be the same, Chin-Hong, the UCSF doctor, said.
Expect to book an appointment to get your flu shot
If you’re used to walking up to your local pharmacy, hospital or clinic to get a flu shot whenever it’s most convenient to you, you may find this year that you have to schedule an appointment instead.
Signs in a local pharmacy instruct customers to make an appointment for both flu and COVID shots, and Walgreens’ chief medical officer, Kevin Ban, recommends scheduling COVID-19 and flu vaccinations online.
“We are doing as much as possible to make it easy for people to schedule their appointments and get seamlessly vaccinated,” Ban said, adding that you can also call Walgreens’ toll-free number to make an appointment.
It’s safe to get your COVID and flu shots simultaneously
The COVID pandemic continues to cause infection, hospitalization and death, with hospitals in the hardest-hit areas once again at the limit of their ability to treat patients. But the flu shot should be as easy to get as the COVID-19 vaccination.
In fact, the CDC has said it’s safe to get a flu shot and COVID vaccination in the same sitting. (Vaccine-maker Moderna said it’s working on a , but that combo won’t be available this year.)
For more on vaccines this fall, here’s what we know about theand the . And here’s the latest on the .
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.