Today’s vaccine-weary Americans will get an important message from their doctors this fall (if they haven’t already heard it).
The message is this: don’t skip your flu shot this year, and seniors, ask for a special extra-strength shot.
After the flu hit historically low levels during the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be ready to make a comeback, The Associated Press reports.
The main clue: a nasty flu season has just ended in Australia.
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While there’s no way to predict whether or not the US will be as affected, “last year we went into flu season not knowing if the flu was around or not. This year we know the flu is back,” he said. influenza specialist Richard Webby of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, told the AP.
Annual flu shots are recommended starting with babies 6 months of age.
The flu is most dangerous for people over 65, young children, pregnant women, and people with certain health problems, including heart and lung disease.
“It’s a good time to [people] get vaccinated right now,” Dr. Aaron Glatt, MD, chairman 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 you need to know this flu season.
Extra protection for people over 65
As people age, their immune systems do not respond as strongly to standard flu vaccination.
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This year, people over the age of 65 are urged to get a special rate for extra protection.
If a place doesn’t have the specific doses for seniors, it’s better to get a standard flu shot than to skip vaccination altogether, according to the CDC.
There are three options. Fluzone High-Dose and Flublok contain higher doses of the main anti-flu ingredient.
The other option is Fluad Adjuvanted, which has a regular dose but contains a special ingredient that helps boost people’s immune response, the AP reported.
Seniors can and should ask what type of flu shot their doctor carries.
But most flu shots are given at pharmacies, and some pharmacy websites, like CVS, automatically direct people to places that offer senior doses if their date of birth indicates they qualify.
Webby of Memphis advised making sure older relatives and friends know about senior shots, in case they aren’t told when they seek the shot.
“They should at least ask, ‘Do you have the injections that are best for me?'” Webby said, as reported by the AP. “The bottom line is that they work better” for this age group, she said.
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if a place doesn’t have the specific doses for seniors, it’s better to get a standard flu shot than to skip vaccination altogether.
All flu shots in the US, including types for people under 65, are “quadrivalent,” meaning they protect against four different flu strains, the AP reports.
Younger people also have options, 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 southern hemisphere winters often foreshadows what northern hemisphere countries can expect, said Dr. Andrew Pekosz of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. Bloomberg, AP noted.
Additionally, many people have abandoned the masking and distancing precautions that earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic also helped prevent the spread of other respiratory viruses like the flu.
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“This poses a risk especially for young children who may not have had much or no prior exposure to influenza viruses prior to this season,” Pekosz added.
“This year we’re going to have a true flu season like we saw before the pandemic,” said Dr. Jason Newland, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Washington University in St. Louis, according to AP.
Children’s hospitals are already seeing an unusual initial rise in other respiratory infections, including RSV or respiratory syncytial virus, and there are concerns that the flu may also strike earlier than usual like in Australia.
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The CDC recommends a flu shot by the end of October.
However, the flu shot can be given at any time during the flu season. Protection takes approximately two weeks to establish.
The United States expects between 173 and 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 pain, experts say.
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Dr. Fred Davis, associate chair of Emergency Medicine at Northwell Health in Long Island, New York, told Fox News Digital that it sees a number of cases of the flu in the emergency department each year.
Davis also recommends that people get a flu shot ideally before the end of October, before flu cases start to rise.
Davis also said, “It’s important that people older than six months and [those] who haven’t had previous serious allergic reactions, get a flu shot every year.
The Associated Press as well as Amy McGorry contributed to this article.