Flu shot even more important during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 3:11 PM, Oct 17, 2021

(WXYZ) — As flu season kicks off, health experts are once again warning of a “twindemic."  But last year, influenza cases hit historical lows.  So how important is it to get a flu shot during the pandemic? 

Flu season is notoriously unpredictable. And yes, last year’s season was mild during the pandemic, which was a relief because we had such high COVID case numbers. But many of us in the health field are now expecting flu case numbers to go up this year. And here’s why:

- Number one, public health measures have changed. Masks are no longer required in many states, including here in Michigan. Social distancing has eased as well. So while there are people who continue to follow these safety precautions – which I still strongly support – there are just as many who don’t.

- Secondly, more people are gathering. There are a lot more kids back in the classrooms this school year. Also, more businesses have reopened. And more folks are traveling nationally and internationally.

- Lastly, with less exposure to the flu last year, I’m concerned that many Americans could have weaker natural immune defenses.

Now is the best time to get a flu shot. Most people who are older than six months can get the flu vaccine. It takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop. But for children under the age of 9, who are getting their first flu shot, they’ll need two doses that are four weeks apart. And parents should know that it’ll take about six weeks for antibodies to develop. As a parent myself, I know that children can be afraid of needles. If so, ask your pediatrician about the FluMist. The FluMist is a nasal spray that’s been approved for people between the ages of 2 and 49. That is unless you’re pregnant. If you’re pregnant, you’ll want the flu shot. It can help prevent severe illness and maternal complications. Also, for those aged 65 and up, you’ll likely need a high-dose or adjuvanted flu vaccine. These are designed to create a stronger immune response.

Now, I’m getting asked by my patients if they can get the flu shot and the COVID vaccine at the same time. And according to the CDC, the answer is yes. To me, it’s important that people who can get vaccinated for both the flu and COVID, do so. Both of these viruses are respiratory viruses. And they both can kill. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and loved ones.