Now is the time to schedule and receive your influenza (flu) shot and updated COVID-19 booster. Based on recent infection rates around the world, experts anticipate that the U.S. will have a longer, more severe flu season than we have seen in recent years and with COVID-19 variants still causing people to become sick, it is a good idea to stay on top of the latest boosters. To help reduce infection rates and prevent negative outcomes from the flu and from COVID-19 this season, the flu shot and COVID-19 booster are highly recommended for most people.
Here are five things to know about COVID-19 and the 2022 flu season.
- Why it’s important to get both the flu shot and COVID-19 booster
Updated COVID-19 boosters and annual flu shots help provide protection for you, your family and friends. During the 2019-2020 flu season alone, the U.S. saw 7.5 million flu illnesses, 105,000 hospitalizations, and 6,300 deaths. A flu shot is the best defense to reduce the risk of flu infection, severe illness, hospitalization and death.
Similarly, there has been an average of 4,753 cases of COVID-19 reported per day in California this year. Receiving the annual flu vaccine and the updated COVID booster are the best ways to prevent both viruses from spreading to vulnerable populations. These new boosters help to restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination and targeting recent Omicron variants that are more transmissible and immune-evading.
- Who should receive a flu shot and COVID-19 booster
Everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated annually for the flu shot. There are certain groups of people who are more at risk for the flu, including people 65 years and older, people who have certain chronic medical conditions (such as heart disease, diabetes, and asthma), pregnant women and children under 5 who are at higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications.
The CDC has recommended the updated boosters from Pfizer-BioNTech for adults and children ages 5 years and older and from Moderna for people ages 6 years and older. These COVID-19 boosters are bivalent, meaning they target Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, and the original strain of the COVID-19 virus, in a single shot.
- When to get a flu shot and COVID-19 booster
Flu season typically begins in October and peaks between December and February. The CDC recommends getting a flu shot between late September and late October as it takes about two weeks for the immunity to form in your body. However, it is never too late to get the flu shot.
You can safely get your flu shot and COVID-19 booster at the same time. Getting an updated booster means you are helping to restore your body’s protection against COVID-19, which has decreased since previous vaccination. As a result, this provides broader protection against newer variants so getting the latest booster as soon as possible is encouraged.
“Getting vaccinated is a simple act of kindness because it protects the people around you who may be more vulnerable to complications from either of these viruses,” says Kelley Brinsky, DO, with Dignity Health Medical Group — Sequoia.
- How do you know if it’s COVID-19 or the flu?
Since both COVID-19 and the flu are respiratory illnesses, symptoms can be similar and difficult to differentiate. Should you be suffering from flu or COVID-19 symptoms that you believe could make you infectious to those around you, contact your doctor to help determine the best course for testing or treatment.
“Because COVID-19 and the Flu have many of the same symptoms, it is a good idea to get tested for COVID-19 as soon as you have symptoms,” says Dr. Brinsky.
- More ways to avoid catching the flu and COVID-19
There are a number of ways to reduce the risk in getting the flu, including incorporating healthy habits in your daily routine. The following additional precautionary measures can help to reduce the spread of the flu as well as COVID-19:
- Cover your mouth during coughs and sneezes
- Wash hands often
- Stay home if you’re sick
- Avoid touching your face, nose and mouth
If you have flu or COVID symptoms, you should contact your doctor as soon as possible. You can alleviate symptoms by hydrating and taking over-the-counter pain medication such as Tylenol and ibuprofen when you start having symptoms.
“The actions we take now to help stop the spread of the flu will keep our families and communities safe,” says Dr. Brinsky. “Staying up-to-date on your vaccinations for flu and COVID-19 is your best defense against contracting and spreading the flu or COVID-19.”
If you have any questions about symptoms you are experiencing, you can make a virtual visits appointment with your primary care provider to help determine care. Schedule your vaccinations today by calling your local Dignity Health Medical Group clinic.