Experts say flu shots, COVID-19 Boosters go hand-in-hand

People are being urged to check with their healthcare providers about getting a flu shot, to help protect them from an illness during the holiday season.

Seasonal flu activity dropped dramatically last year at the height of the pandemic, but as life gets back to near normal, researchers are also expecting a return of influenza.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends flu shots for most people over six months of age, and especially those at high risk for developing complications.

Allison Adams, vice president for policy at the Foundation For a Healthy Kentucky, said most people can receive a flu shot at the same time they receive their booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.  “But now that we’re seemingly back to ‘normal’ with our interactions with people, without masks and back in close distances with people, it’s important to make sure you get your flu vaccine this year,” Adams advised.

The CDC estimates in the 2019-2020 flu season, more than 38 million people in the U.S. had the flu, and estimates of flu-related deaths ranged between 24,000 and 62,000.

Steps such as frequent handwashing, covering nose and mouth when sneezing, and staying home when sick also curb flu spread, along with the COVID-19 precautions of mask-wearing and social distancing.

The CDC recommends COVID-19 booster shots in particular for individuals age 65 and older, people living in long-term care facilities, anyone with a medical condition that increases their risk of severe infection, and those who are likely to be exposed at their place of work.

Adams urged people to check with their doctor to answer questions.  “I think it’s really important to make sure you get the information that’s accurate for you and your provider-and-patient relationship, so that you can make the decision that’s best for your family, regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine,” Adams stated.

Adams pointed out all eligible vaccinated Kentucky adults can now get any of the three COVID-19 vaccination boosters from Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson, but it is separate from the flu vaccine.  “We’re dealing with two different viruses,” Adams emphasized. “While influenza has been around for quite some time, we do have a vaccine that prevents, you know, serious illness and complications.”

According to state data, as of this week, more than 59,000 Kentuckians have received a COVID booster shot.

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