The holidays are upon us, and that means that the season of giving and receiving gifts of all sorts, including respiratory viruses, is here. While the COVID-19 pandemic has overshadowed many other respiratory diseases, these concerns – like the flu – haven’t gone anywhere. But, it’s not too late to get your flu vaccine.
Flu Vaccine Recommendations
National Influenza Vaccination Week, observed December 5-11 each year to bring awareness to the importance of flu vaccination, is a great time to check off getting the influenza vaccine. The CDC recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older without a medical contraindication to vaccines be vaccinated for influenza annually.
What to Expect this Flu Season
Last year, the normal seasons for many common respiratory viruses were suppressed due to the masks, social distancing, crowd avoidance, handwashing and other public health measures people practiced for COVID-19. Viruses like influenza are even more susceptible to these preventive measures than the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
However, this year, fewer people are using these public health measures – and fewer are remembering to get their influenza vaccine. The impacts of these behaviors are already starting to show. Although still lower than a typical influenza season of the past, the number of influenza cases and hospitalizations are already above the levels of last year in many locations nationally. These cases are expected to rise.
It is easy to become accustomed to statistics and numbers during a disease outbreak or pandemic. But we must remember that the flu typically kills up to 60,000 people each year during seasonal outbreaks in the United States. The best method we have to protect ourselves and our loved ones is vaccination.
Protection with the influenza vaccine this year is even more important given the higher numbers of people who are becoming ill with COVID-19, the majority of whom are unvaccinated. A harsher influenza season due to reduced influenza vaccine use and reduced public health measures can easily stress available healthcare resources in many locations.
Flu Vaccines Are Our Best Protection
The solution is simple. The Influenza vaccines available this year are safe and effective. Now is the time to get your flu vaccine if you have not already. Go to your healthcare provider, local pharmacy or department of public health and get your influenza vaccine. Don’t forget to also continue to wear masks and practice other public health measures. Finally, you can get your COVID-19 vaccine or booster at the same time as your influenza vaccine. Find more COVID-19 resources.
So everyone, have a great holiday season. Stay safe and vaccinate!