Christina Knox gets a flu shot from Scott Kendall at Rite Aid Pharmacy in Murray on Aug. 7, 2012. Doctors believe that this flu season in the US will be the worst since the end of the Australian season – and with 300 deaths and 1,700 hospitalizations. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)
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SALT LAKE CITY – Doctors believe this flu season could be the worst in the US since the end of the Australian season – and with 300 deaths and 1,700 hospitalizations.
Kensey Graves, associate professor of internal medicine and chief medical officer of patient health at University of Utah Health, noted that Utah has not seen a flu outbreak in the past two years.
Australia – which the US looks to to predict what states might see – has seen a huge increase in severe flu cases this year. In the year In 2021, the country experienced no influenza deaths and only a handful of hospitalizations. But during this period, the country saw a fivefold increase in serious cases and deaths, Graves said.
“That’s what worries us in America about how bad this flu season is going to be,” she said.
This year makes it important to get a flu shot. At the same time, the coronavirus continues to spread in the community – although not at the rate it once did. The flu vaccine is “predictable from year to year,” Graves said. The vaccine varies from year to year depending on what type of influenza is circulating, but the timing is “always the same.”
Doctors recommend that people get a flu shot in September or October before Halloween. Flu season begins in October and continues through March, according to Graves.
Flu shots are available now. Available throughout the state.
According to Graves, it’s safe to get the flu shot and the Covid-19 vaccine at the same time. But if someone has had a severe reaction to a vaccine in the past, it may be wise to get the flu and Covid-19 shots at different times.
Current Covid-19 protection
A person’s first-line vaccination series provides immunity to Covid-19, and subsequent boosters add to that immunity. The initial stimuli were aimed at the early stages of SARS-CoV-2, said Dr. Hannah Imlay, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Utah’s Division of Infectious Diseases.
But successive waves of different variants have spread around the world, and vaccines don’t target them, she says. They protect against serious illness and death, he said. But A new bivalent stimulus It targets current variants as well as ancestral ones.
Availability of booster vaccine can be found at vacances.gov/search/.
People who have had previous boosters are “pretty well protected,” Imley said, but immunity to any possible COVID-19 infection “will wane after a few months.”
The new bivalent boosters are allowed to be taken at least two months after a person’s most recent dose, regardless of how many boosters a person received, Imlay said.
A person’s vaccination dose and “spotting” the infection can help boost immunity, she said. If you have had a recent Covid-19 infection, it may be best to wait at least three months before receiving bivalent boosters.
“You’ve got a lot of immune priming from your infection, you’ve got a lot of immune priming from your most recent vaccine dose, so wait a little longer before getting the bivalent booster,” Imlay said as “general advice.”
However, those who are immunocompromised or expect to attend a major event soon may want to get the bivalent vaccine sooner.
Doctors don’t yet know how quickly immunity will wane after a bivalent boost, but Imlay said they expect immunity to last four to six months. When asked whether a person should get the vaccine before Halloween or Thanksgiving, Imley said she would recommend at least 10 days before a possible outbreak of Covid-19.
It’s okay to mix and match vaccines, Imley said, and urged people to get the shots they’re offered.
When asked if she believed the epidemic was over, Imlay stressed that people will continue to get infected with Covid-19 – with an average of 70,000 new cases and 500 deaths in the US every day.
“That said, many of the policy decisions and choices we’ve made as a nation have turned this into a larger public health response to a more sustainable and conventional model. The country could see a “significant number of cases,” she said.
Imlay added that the tools to prevent the disease are encouraged more at the “individual” level of protection than at the population level.
Based on modeling, she said she doubted the state would have another wave of the disease, but the bivalent boost could help prevent “immune escape” — when the virus can save people’s immunity.