It is unknown what the flu season of 2009 will bring. Last year influenza virtually disappeared, in large part because of widespread adherence to COVID safety measures – social distancing, mask-wearing and hand washing. But the nature of the flu – a notoriously difficult disease to predict – as well as uncertainty around how a pandemic-weary nation will exercise caution this fall, make it impossible to know what lies ahead.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that, with rare exceptions, everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine every season. Experts in public health say that vaccination is essential to prevent illness and protect communities.
The biggest risk is the limited healthcare capacity. In the winter, it usually hits that capacity in many places absent COVID, and flu is often a big contributor,” Dan Salmon, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety and a professor in the Department of International Health at Hopkins University said during a press briefing Wednesday. While I won’t be able to predict what the fall will bring, what I can say is that COVID vaccines are very effective. Flu vaccines are fairly good. They should be used as often as possible, and we hope to avoid co-pandemics.
USA TODAY interviewed Stephen Fadowole (a Walgreens pharmacist in Chicago) and Linda Molaka (a CVS pharmacy manager in Pembroke Pines), about what they think people should know about flu shots this year.
Question: How do I know when is the right time to have the flu shot?
Stephen Fadowole: This is the best time of year to have your flu shot. For people over 6 months old, flu shots are recommended by the CDC to prevent flu from spreading. Flu can be spread in communities as early as October. Two weeks are required for the antibodies in your body to form and give protection from the flu.
Linda Molaka: The peak flu season runs from December to February so the last week of October is crucial. You should get your flu shot before then. We actually start vaccinating patients when the flu shots are available, which happens in August.
Q: Do I have to take my flu shots too soon?
Fadowole:According to the CDC July and August might be too late to get flu shots to protect you for the whole season. However, if there’s a chance you may miss out on getting your flu shot, it’s better to get it a little early than not at all.
Molaka It’s fine to get the flu shot anytime after the pharmacies begin offering them.
Q: What happens to me if my flu shot is too late?
Fadowole: The risk of getting your flu shot too late is getting infected with flu before you’re protected. It’s also important to remember that it takes two weeks after the vaccine for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu.
Molaka Protection is required as long as there’s a virus circulating. Although there is no time that’s too late, you should get protection as soon as possible.
Q: Is it possible to get both the flu shots and the COVID booster when a COVID boost is approved?
Molaka We can give multiple vaccines simultaneously through the CDC. Get your flu shot. Your booster can be obtained. Your flu shot will give you your initial dose, your second dose and an additional dose. They can all be given simultaneously. You don’t have to wait.
FDA advisory committeeAssessing whether COVID-19 booster vaccines are needed widely now
Q: What if I take them all at once? Will I have any side effects?
Fadowole: Side effects from vaccines can be caused by either one vaccine or multiple vaccines, according to the CDC. Each person may have different side effects.
Molaka Side effects are usually mild and only last one to two hours. They are an indication that your immune system is strengthening.
Q: What else is there that people should know?
Fadowole: To help prevent the spread of an illness, people must ensure that they get their flu shot as soon as possible.
Molaka We need to dispel some myths. Many people say that they got the flu shot, and now have the flu. Flu shots won’t cure the flu. These times of pandemics are a time to conserve healthcare resources, not overburden healthcare workers with an easily prevented disease. We aim to reduce hospitalization. We aim to reduce deaths. It is important that we get the shot in order to limit the effects on the healthcare system, keep our communities healthy and keep our family healthy.
Q: What are the preparations for people who get their COVID and flu shots?
- Walgreens now offers an online appointment system that allows patients to schedule flu and COVID-19 vaccinations. Patients are then asked if they’d like additional vaccines.
- Flu vaccines can be administered by pharmacy team members to children 3 years old and older.
- Walgreens has an active pipeline of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.
- CVS’s digital intake has been optimized so that you can book an appointment online, complete consent forms in advance and minimize touchpoints.
- CVS claims it is hiring actively and that it will meet demand.
- Every one of CVS’ approximately 1000 MinuteClinic locations can vaccinate children aged 18 months or older for flu. The Pharmacy has a different policy depending on where you live, although many locations can provide flu shots for people 3 years old and above.
Learn more:As the flu season begins in the United States, experts warn of an upcoming ‘twindemic’. This is despite rising cases of COVID-19.