Flu season is on its way, and Sanford Health doctors are urging patients to get vaccinated.
With influenza typically starting in the fall and peaking from December to February, now is the time to get those preventive shots.
Flu numbers up, vaccinations down
“Predictions that we’ve heard from the southern hemisphere, where flu season is ahead of ours, is that their flu season was a relatively rough one. So we are anticipating that we may have similar circumstances,” said Clifford Mauriello, M.D., a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Sanford Health in Fargo, North Dakota.
In fact, countries in the southern hemisphere have reported their worst flu outbreaks in five years. During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, flu numbers dropped dramatically, so physicians across the U.S. believe that the number of people getting vaccinated may decline as well.
“I think there is some concern that this might be an unusually severe flu season,” said Susan Hoover, M.D., an infectious disease specialist at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. “Because of COVID and people having less contact with each other, we’ve had two fairly light flu seasons in the United States. And so there are people who have not been exposed to an influenza virus in several years. And in the case of children born in the past two years, they may never have been exposed. So there’s concern that the population may have less immunity than usual, and could be vulnerable to a severe flu season.”
Benefits of getting the shot
Dr. Mauriello does stress the importance of getting the vaccine though, especially with other respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, still around.
“We know that every flu season we run into trouble with hospitals being full of people with influenza. And of course now we have COVID as well. And then the usual other respiratory viruses that we don’t have vaccines for: adenovirus, parainfluenza virus, norovirus and lots of other ones,” said Dr. Mauriello. “We want to protect people from bad outcomes from influenza, which can be very serious just like COVID can. And so what we’re trying to do here is prevent hospitalizations.”
Along with flu shots, Sanford also recommends COVID-19 bivalent booster shots for all patients, and getting both shots on the same day is a great option.
“It is safe to get (flu and COVID booster shots) on the same day and it’s certainly more convenient than having to make two appointments,” said Dr. Hoover. “When the COVID vaccines first came out two years ago, they were new, so of course public health experts wanted to be cautious and look at the experience with these vaccines before recommending that they be done on the same day. But now we have much more experience with the COVID-19 vaccine, and we know that for most people, the side effects of both vaccines are mild.”
It’s easy to get a vaccination, Dr. Mauriello said. You can call your primary care provider, see if you’re due for one, and then make a nursing appointment. They’ll be able to get your shot.
“Vaccination really depends a lot on the herd being willing to get immunized as a group. So the more people that are immunized, the better you do,” said Dr. Mauriello.
Information in this story was accurate when it was posted. As the COVID-19 pandemic changes, scientific understanding and guidelines may have changed since the original publication date.
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