As 2021 nears the final few months with cooler weather on the way, and as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, one regular health issue also requires our attention: the flu.
Flu vaccines will be available soon at Samaritan clinics. And even though flu was not prevalent last year, Jill Provaznik, MD, of Samaritan Infectious Disease says it’s still important to get the flu shot.
“Flu activity is difficult to predict from year to year. Last year we saw very low rates of the flu and other respiratory viruses because people were using masks and social distancing, which prevented the normal spread of these viruses,” said Dr. Provaznik. “This year’s rates will again be influenced by people’s social behaviors. If people continue to use masks and distance, then the rates will be low. However, if the general population stops using these precautions, we will likely see much more influenza this winter2020-21 season.”
That’s where the added protection of the flu vaccine is important. The flu vaccine is updated every year, partially to protect against the most common flu viruses circulating in the Southern Hemisphere, which experiences winter months six months before the Northern Hemisphere.
Dr. Provaznik said the Southern Hemisphere experienced another mild flu season this year, but she cautioned against using that to predict what this region will experience.
“While influenza activity is currently low within the US and other parts of the world, that could quickly change,” she said. “If social distancing measures and masking decrease and international travel increases, it is very likely the flu will begin spreading as it did prior to the COVID pandemic.”
“Getting the flu shot this year is especially important, as there is concern that reduced exposure to the flu last year could result in a more severe flu season this year due to a lack in population immunity,” she continued.
Learn more about flu vaccine availability, including drive-up vaccination times at samhealth.org/Flu.