It is now flu season and time to get the shot. What might be completely different this 12 months

Don't wait to get your flu shot. Here's what to know about the season ahead

It is flu season. And meaning it is flu shot season.

Sarah Tew/CNET

For essentially the most up-to-date information and details about the coronavirus pandemic, go to the WHO and CDC web sites.

Down the road, an indication exterior our neighborhood pharmacy stated vaccine walk-ins have been welcome. Inside, the road to get the shot stretched down an aisle. We weren’t queued up for a COVID-19 vaccine jab, nevertheless: We have been ready for our 2021 flu shot.

Flu season is right here once more, and people virus infections will overlap with the continued COVID-19 pandemic, creating the potential of a “twindemic” of two distinct, harmful diseases that trigger (amongst different issues) respiratory misery, hospitalizations and loss of life for hundreds of thousands of individuals. Nationwide lockdowns that saved individuals distanced, combined with the annual flu shot, largely helped dodge the double blast of infections final 12 months. However this 12 months, issues are completely different. Many different viruses, like RSV and rhinovirus, are coming again. And the flu probably will comply with go well with. 

Whereas the US noticed a steep rise in coronavirus infections within the winter, the unfold of influenza was uncommonly gentle. Nonetheless, this 12 months might return to the standard sample, by which hundreds of thousands of individuals within the US catch the influenza virus, based on the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, and tens of hundreds die from flu-related causes. With COVID-19 vaccines and booster photographs now licensed — even mix-and-match photographs — intermingling is predicted. (And COVID-19 antiviral medicine are on the best way.) And with that, a doable enhance within the flu, alongside new waves of delta variant COVID infections at a time when peoples’ stance on masking and social distancing have grow to be political points, not simply public well being considerations.

We talked with three flu-vaccine specialists about what to anticipate this flu season — learn on for his or her sensible steerage and considerations. For extra on the flu, this is the place you may get your shot in 2021, which flu-shot uncomfortable side effects you could expertise and why epidemiologists counsel taking each a COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot.

Get your flu shot. Now

Within the US — and the remainder of the northern hemisphere — flu season normally runs October to Could, based on the specialists we spoke to. However the flu virus is much less involved with the seasons and extra concerned about spreading. So the timing this 12 months may very well be much less predictable, specialists warn, with final 12 months’s gentle flu season and our personal altering behaviors across the pandemic. 

However you do not wish to attempt to time your flu shot for when the flu will hit. To be prepared, specialists suggest you get your flu vaccine now.

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“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, the side effects should 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.


Now’s the time to get ready for the flu season.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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 combination COVID-19/flu vaccine, but that combo won’t be available this year.)

For more on vaccines this fall, here’s what we know about the Pfizer COVID-19 booster and the Moderna vaccine booster. And here’s the latest on the Johnson & Johnson booster.

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.

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