The weather is changing and it’s that time of year when you need to start bundling up. It’s also officially flu season and some of you may be wondering if you should also get a flu shot—especially if you’ve gotten the COVID-19 vaccination or booster.
The answer is yes, according to health experts. Last year, we had an unusually mild flu season because most of us were hunkering at home and avoiding large group settings for the holidays. But with more and more businesses opening, the following of social distancing guidelines lessening and fewer people wearing masks, experts are concerned that we could be heading into a big flu season.
“We are worried the incredibly low influenza rates that we saw last season could create a rebound influenza epidemic this year,” said Dr. Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh.
According to data collected by the CDC from 2010 to 2020, the agency estimates that the flu has caused 12,000–52,000 deaths and 140,000–710,000 hospitalizations annually. And while it’s too soon to predict how severe this flu season will be, experts are worried that last year’s mild flu season means that fewer people have immunity to strains that will likely be circulating this winter.
“It could be really bad—and it could be really bad at a time when there’s still quite a bit of COVID-19 filling up our hospitals,” explained Dr. Roberts.
With this in mind, your best defense to fend off the muscles aches, fever and sometimes deadly respiratory infection that is associated with influenza is getting a flu shot. This is especially important for African Americans, who continue to experience the highest rate of hospitalization due to severe influenza illnesses.
The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine every year. The flu can be harder to fight off for specific populations, such as infants and young children, the elderly, and people who are immunocompromised due to chronic illnesses such as HIV or cancer—so it’s especially important for those populations to get vaccinated.
This season, it’s also important to familiarize yourself with the similarities and differences between the symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu. The CDC has created an easy-to-read chart that breaks it all down. You can also find other flu preventative tips on their site so you and your family can better protect yourself this winter.
Want to learn more about why getting a flu shot this year is so important? Check out Sanofi’s new site, FluShotFridays.com. It includes information on everything from whether it’s okay to get the COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot at the same time to where you can get a flu shot in your area.
This article is brought to you by Sanofi.