The renewed surge in COVID-19 cases makes getting your flu shot this year more important than ever, say Banner Health experts.
Flu season usually starts in October, so infectious-disease specialists suggest the best time to get vaccinated is from early September to the end of October.
“There are concerns that this could be a more severe flu season than last year,’’ said Devin Minior, MD, physician executive at Banner Urgent Care.
Predicting flu activity in the U.S. is more difficult this year. Normally, American infectious-disease experts use Australia’s flu cases to help predict the number of cases and severity of flu in the U.S., but because Australia has had COVID-19 mitigation measures in place for much of the year, it is not reliable for predictions.
Last year, the number of flu cases were down in the U.S. to historically low levels because of COVID-19 mitigations such as masking and distancing. Also, there was a record number of flu vaccinations administered.
Without those precautions, flu season could come roaring back this year, experts say.
“We are really going into a season of unknowns here,’’ Minior said. “We can’t easily predict the severity of this year’s flu. We don’t know how peoples’ immune systems will deal with any new virus and we don’t know if people will continue staying home and masking up like they did last year.
“To protect themselves against all of these unknowns, people should get the flu shot. We can’t stress that enough,’’ he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that it is safe to get COVID vaccinations and flu shots at the same time.
Annual flu vaccines are especially important for children ages 6 months to 4 years, adults age 50 and older, nursing home residents, people with underlying health conditions such as heart disease and lung disease, people who are immunosuppressed and people who are pregnant.
While children under 12 are not yet eligible for the COVID vaccine, those ages 6 months and older are strongly encouraged to get the flu vaccine.
Banner Urgent Care provide flu shots in a safe environment that follows CDC recommendations, including masking, pre-screening patients for COVID-19 symptoms and limiting facility access.
“We know that many people won’t be able to get their vaccine at their workplace this year. We want people to be assured that we are offering them a safe place to get their vaccination,’’ Minior said.
Flu shots are available at Banner Urgent Care clinics; $0 copay with most insurances.
Banner Urgent Care provides a close, convenient and affordable treatment option for patients with non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries such as cold and flu; ear, eye and throat infections; fevers; skin rashes; and sprains, strains and lacerations. Banner Urgent Care is open every day of the year and accepts most insurance plans.