Flu and COVID-19 vaccines: What you need to know

Flu and COVID-19 vaccines: What you need to know

Before the flu season starts and coronavirus cases increase, boost your immunity.

The arrival of autumn portends mild temperatures, warm jackets and anticipation of the upcoming festive season. But it also happens when infectious respiratory viruses begin to spread more quickly. That’s why October is the perfect time to boost your immunity against two common and potentially life-threatening viruses: influenza (influenza) and SARS CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Winter Warning: Bad Flu Season Coming?

With all the attention to Covid over the past two years, the focus on influenza has waned somewhat. Last year’s flu season was very mild – in fact, the maximum number of positive cases was the lowest in at least 25 years before the COVID-19 pandemic. But don’t count on repeating this winter.

“The general consensus is that this year’s flu season could be worse than average, for two reasons,” says infectious disease specialist Dr. Ross, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.

First, Australia has had a very severe flu season this year, with three times the normal number of cases. Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, and the winter flu season peaks in August, often predicting what happens in the United States and elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, he notes. Second, the masking and social distancing that many people followed to prevent COVID also prevented catching the flu. “But the era of widespread masking is over, so we expect more viral transmission this season,” Dr. Ross says.

Ongoing complications of COVID-19

COVID cases and hospital admissions have dropped dramatically since early this year. On average, about 340 people per day died from the virus in August and September, compared to about 3,400 people per day in early February 2022. “We expect COVID rates to rise again during the winter, although not as large as last winter,” he says. Dr. Ross. He adds that there is clear evidence that Omicron – currently the most widely spread form of COVID – spreads more easily than previous strains, but is less likely to kill you.

Flu Vaccine Tips for Adults

All adults should receive a yearly flu vaccine, except for people who have had a life-threatening reaction to the vaccine in the past. The vaccine is especially important for those at higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu. This includes

  • Persons over 65
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • People with heart failure and other heart diseases, or who have asthma, COPD or other lung diseases
  • People with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, strokes, or other neurological problems
  • People with diabetes, a weak immune system, and chronic liver or kidney disease
  • Pregnant women and new mothers.

If you’re over 65, the CDC recommends getting one of the vaccines that produces higher levels of antibodies that help protect you from the flu: the high-grade tetravalent fluzone, tetravalent Flublock, or the Fluad Quadrifent adjuvant vaccines. . The first two types contain larger amounts of antigens, which are proteins that stimulate an antibody response. The third contains adjuvant, an additive that enhances the immune response. Dr. Ross says that people who fall into the other high-risk categories listed above may also want to seek out one of these vaccinations. But get the standard flu shot if none of the other options are readily available.

COVID Vaccine Tips for Adults

The CDC is urging all adults to keep up with the COVID vaccines, including the new bivalent mRNA booster. Bivalent shots target both the original COVID strain and the two most recent Omicron sub variants (BA.4 and BA.5), which are more contagious than previous strains. You must wait at least two months after your previous booster series or primary vaccine to get the new booster. Supporter recommendations may vary For people with weakened immune systems. Look CDC . website For more details about COVID vaccines and boosters.

“The real-world effectiveness of these boosters is a big question mark, but I would definitely recommend one to anyone who deserves a booster dose, especially if you’re older,” says Dr. Ross. He adds that some data from previous rounds of boosters suggests that anything you can do to expand your immune system’s repertoire of responding to omicron will likely protect you from severe illness and hospitalization from COVID. for example, A recent study among nursing home residents It shows a 26% lower COVID infection, 60% reduction in hospitalizations, and a 90% reduction in deaths for those who received two booster doses at appropriate intervals compared to just one booster dose.

There is no downside to getting a booster shot at the same time you get your annual flu shot, although those who’ve experienced bothersome side effects from a COVID vaccine in the past may want to get their flu shot on a different day. But for many people, getting both shots and getting them done is a smart strategy.

What else can I do to avoid a viral infection?

Simple actions like washing your hands often, using hand sanitizer when you can’t wash your hands, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth can help you stay healthy. Also, make sure you eat well, stay active, and get a good night’s sleep.

The Center for Disease Control has Additional tip To protect yourself from COVID-19, such as moving indoor activities outdoors, improving indoor air ventilation, and taking precautions such as wearing masks and social distancing in crowded places, or when COVID cases are high in your community.

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