Today’s vaccine-weary Americans will be on the receiving end of an important message from their doctors this fall (if they haven’t heard it already).
The message is this: Don’t skip your flu shot this year — and seniors, please ask for a special extra-strength kind.
After flu hit historically low levels during the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be poised for a comeback, The Associated Press is reporting.
The main clue: A nasty flu season just ended in Australia.
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While there’s no way to predict if the US will be as hard-hit or not, “last year we were going into flu season not knowing if flu was around or not. This year we know flu is back,” influenza specialist Richard Webby of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., told the AP.
Annual flu shots are recommended starting with 6-month-old babies.
Flu is most dangerous for people 65 and older, young children, pregnant women and people with certain health problems, including heart and lung diseases.
“It is a perfectly good time for [people] to get the shot, right now,” Dr. Aaron Glatt, MD, chair of the Department of Medicine and chief of Infectious Diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau in New York, told Fox News Digital last week.
He is also a hospital epidemiologist.
Here’s what other health and medical professionals are saying that you need to know this flu season.
Extra protection for those 65 and up
As people get older, their immune system doesn’t respond as strongly to standard flu vaccination.
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This year, people 65 or older are urged to get a special kind for extra protection.
If a location is out of senior-targeted doses, it’s better to get a standard flu shot than to skip vaccination altogether, according to the CDC.
There are three choices. Fluzone High-Dose and Flublok each contain higher doses of the main anti-flu ingredient.
The other option is Fluad Adjuvanted, which has a regular dosage but contains a special ingredient that helps boost people’s immune response, the AP reported.
Seniors can and should ask what kind of flu shot their doctor is carrying.
But most flu vaccinations are given in pharmacies — and some drugstore websites, such as CVS, automatically direct people to locations offering senior doses if their birthdate indicates that they qualify.
Webby of Memphis advised making sure older relatives and friends know about the senior shots, in case they’re not told when they seek vaccination.
“They should at least ask, ‘Do you have the shots that are better for me?'” Webby said, as the AP reported. “The bottom line is they do work better” for this age group, he said.
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If a location is out of senior-targeted doses, it’s better to get a standard flu shot than to skip vaccination altogether, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
All flu vaccines in the US — including types for people younger than 65 — are “quadrivalent,” meaning they guard against four different flu strains, the AP is reporting.
Younger people have choices, too, including shots for those with egg allergies and a nasal spray version called FluMist.
Many people have abandoned masking
Australia just experienced its worst flu season in five years — and what happens during the Southern Hemisphere winters often foreshadows what Northern Hemisphere countries can expect, said Dr. Andrew Pekosz of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the AP noted.
Also, many people have abandoned masking and distancing precautions that earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic also helped prevent the spread of other respiratory bugs such as the flu.
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“This poses a risk especially to young children who may not have had much if any previous exposure to influenza viruses prior to this season,” Pekosz added.
“This year we will have a true influenza season like we saw before the pandemic,” said Dr. Jason Newland, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Washington University in St. Louis, according to the AP.
Children’s hospitals already are seeing an unusual early spike in other respiratory infections including RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus — and there are worries flu likewise will strike earlier than usual as in Australia.
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The CDC advises a flu vaccine by the end of October.
However, the flu shot can be given at any time during flu season. It takes about two weeks for protection to set in.
The US expects 173 million to 183 million doses this year.
And yes, you can get a flu shot and an updated COVID-19 booster at the same time — one in each arm to lessen soreness, say experts.
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Dr. Fred Davis, the associate chair of Emergency Medicine at Northwell Health in Long Island, New York, told Fox News Digital that he sees a number of flu cases present to the emergency department each year.
Davis also recommends that people get a flu vaccine ideally before the end of October—before flu cases start to rise.
Davis also said, “It is important that those individuals six months and older and [those] who have not had previous severe allergic reactions get their flu shot every year.”
The Associated Press, as well as Amy McGorry, contributed reporting to this article.