Flu shots, COVID-19 vaccinations recommended

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, influenza generally contributes to 45 million illnesses, 810,000 hospitalizations and 61,000 deaths during the peak of each flu season between December and February.

These rates have been much lower in recent years as a result of the preventative measures put in place to protect against COVID-19, but health experts are predicting the upcoming flu season to be particularly impactful, especially as such protective measures continue to decline. The lower levels of cold and flu activity during the pandemic mean people haven’t been exposed to these illnesses as much over the past two years and our immune systems may be more susceptible.

“The number one thing people can do to minimize their risk of getting the flu is getting the flu shot,” said Allyson Balthazor, Aspirus clinical pharmacist. “The benefit of preventing the flu outweighs many risks that people may worry about when getting the flu shot. If you have any concerns about the flu shot, talk to your primary care provider or pharmacist.”

Aspirus strongly encourages vaccination against the flu for everyone 6 months of age and older. Flu shots are particularly important for people at higher risk of complications from the flu, including those who are pregnant, younger than age 2 or over age 65, or have a chronic health condition such as asthma, heart disease and diabetes.

Oconto County Public Health will visit schools in October 2022 to provide free flu vaccines to students who turn in a signed and completed consent form. Getting your flu vaccine is the best way to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death from the virus.

Flu shots are expected to be available in late September. Offerings and appointment options may differ by location.

Prevea Health is encourageing all eligible community members to receive a flu shot and at the same time remain up to date on all COVID-19 vaccinations, including the updated booster vaccinations recently approved by the CDC.

“Vaccination is the most important tool we have in preventing the spread of these highly infectious diseases,” said Dr. Ashok Rai, Prevea Health president and CEO. “Getting your flu shot and remaining up to date on all your recommended COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters are some of the most important steps you can take this fall and winter for your health, the health of your loved ones and the health of your communities.”

The latest COVID-19 booster approved by the CDC adds Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 spike protein components to provide more protection from the Omicron variant. This updated booster is available to individuals 12 years and older who have received their primary series of the COVID vaccine. It is highly recommended for individuals at high risk for severe illness due to COVID-19.