Q: Do I still need to get a flu shot this year?

A: Yes, the flu shot is still an important protection against the flu and is especially important this year. The flu season generally lasts from October through May. Experts suggest the best time to get the flu vaccination is from early September though late October. For older adults it is recommended to get the vaccine in later October so that the effects will last long enough through flu season, as immunity may decrease more quickly in older adults.

This fall and winter it is expected that the respiratory viruses will spread more quickly since children are back in school full time and more people are returning to work in offices. Protecting yourself against the flu is an important step in helping our community and our hospitals manage the surge of illnesses.

The COVID-19 vaccine booster shot for Pfizer has been approved for all people aged 65 and up, as well as for people with underlying medical conditions. You can learn more about who is recommended to get the booster shot here https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/p0924-booster-recommendations-.html There is no contraindication for receiving the booster and the flu vaccine at the same time, so this should not be a reason to delay or skip the flu vaccine.

People aged 65 and older are at higher risk for developing more severe complications for the flu. The vaccine offers protection and is updated each year to be specific to the strains that are circulating.

The shot is recommended for older adults rather than the nasal spray. There are two types of shots that are best indicated for age 65 and up. The high dose flu vaccine (brand name Fluzone High-Dose) and the adjuvanted flu vaccine (brand name Fluad Quadrivalent).

The flu vaccine is available now at doctors’ offices and pharmacies. Many pharmacies even offer it as a walk-in without an appointment.

Many people delayed regular medical appointments during the COVID pandemic and may be behind on other vaccines or routine care. This is a good time to remind yourself to make sure you maintain all your preventative medical care. Older adults should also be up to date on the pneumococcal vaccination to protect against pneumonia, meningitis, and bloodstream infections. Talk to your doctor and make sure you are doing everything possible to stay healthy.

In addition to the vaccine, we can all help prevent the spread of infections by washing hands often, staying home when ill, avoiding other people who are ill, and covering our coughs.

Last year the flu season was comparably mild to other years. It may be that all the precautions to prevent COVID helped stop the spread. There is a concern that this year the flu season will come back stronger, as there are less restrictions in place now. While no one can fully predict, it is always best to be on the side of caution and do what we can to prevent illness.
Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at mshapiro@seniorconcerns.org

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