Today’s vaccine-weary Americans will get an important message from their doctors this fall (if they haven’t heard it already).
The message is: don’t skip your flu shot this year – and seniors, please ask for a special extra-strength shot.
After the flu hit historic lows during the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be on the verge of returning, reports the Associated Press.
The main clue: a bad flu season has just ended in Australia.
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While there’s no way to predict whether or not the United States will be as badly hit, “last year we entered flu season not knowing whether the flu was around or not. This year , we know the flu is back,” flu specialist Richard Webby of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, told the AP.
Annual influenza vaccines are recommended from the age of 6 months.
The flu is most dangerous for people 65 and older, young children, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions, including heart and lung disease.
“Now is the right time to [people] to get vaccinated, right away,” 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 say you need to know this flu season.
Additional coverage for ages 65 and over
As people age, their immune system does not react as strongly to the standard flu shot.
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This year, people 65 or older are urged to get a special type for extra protection.
If a place no longer has doses targeted for the elderly, it’s better to get the standard flu shot than to skip the vaccination entirely, according to the CDC.
There are three choices. Fluzone High-Dose and Flublok each contain higher doses of the main flu-fighting 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 type of flu shot their doctor has.
But most flu shots are given at pharmacies — and some pharmacy websites, such as CVS, automatically direct people to places that offer doses for seniors if their date of birth indicates they’re eligible.
Memphis’ Webby advised making sure older relatives and friends are aware of seniors’ vaccines, in case they are not told when they are getting their shots.
“They should at least ask, ‘Do you have the best shots for me?'” Webby said, as reported by the AP. “The main thing is that they work better” for this age group, he said.
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if a place no longer has targeted doses for seniors, it’s best to get the standard flu shot rather than skip the shot entirely.
All flu shots in the United States — including types intended for people under 65 — are “quadrivalent,” meaning they protect against four different strains of flu, the AP reports.
Young people also have options, including injections for people with egg allergies and a nasal spray version called FluMist.
A lot of people have given up on masking
Australia has just had its worst flu season in five years – and what happens in southern hemisphere winters often foreshadows what countries in the northern hemisphere can expect, said Dr Andrew Pekosz of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the 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 insects such as influenza.
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“This poses a risk, especially for young children who may not have had much or no previous exposure to influenza viruses before this season,” Pekosz added.
“This year we will 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 the AP.
Children’s hospitals are already seeing an unusual early spike in other respiratory infections, including RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus – and there are fears the flu could also hit earlier than usual, like in Australia.
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The CDC advises a flu shot by the end of October.
However, the flu shot can be given at any time during the flu season. It takes about two weeks for the protection to install.
The United States 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 dull the 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 flu cases presenting to the emergency room each year.
Davis also recommends that people get their flu shot ideally before the end of October – before flu cases start to rise.
Davis also said, “It’s important that people six months and older and [those] who have not had severe allergic reactions before get the flu shot every year.”
The Associated Press, along with Amy McGorry, contributed to this article.
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