When to get your flu shot and what to expect this flu season in Oklahoma
After a mild flu season last year — with Oklahoma recording some of the lowest numbers of flu-related hospitalizations and deaths in years — we may be in store for a worse one this year, experts say.
Mitigation measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, like mask-wearing, social distancing and more people working from home, likely contributed to keeping flu infections down last season.
“It’s hard to say exactly what may happen with this year’s flu season, because since we’ve been tracking flu, we really haven’t had a situation like this where we have such intense mitigation factors that flu drops so low,” said Cassandra Mecoy, an epidemiologist with the Oklahoma Health Department.
But some professionals are concerned we could see a “rebound effect” this season, Mecoy said.
“If they weren’t exposed the year before or didn’t have flu, they have more susceptibility to flu than they would in a typical season,” she said.
Here’s what you need to know about flu this year:
When is it best to get a flu shot?
Soonest is best, experts said. A flu vaccine is the best way to protect against severe complications.
“The best time to start thinking about getting your flu shot is right now,” Mecoy said. “In my family, we get them usually the first or second week of October, but your provider may already have flu shots available for you.”
There’s no reason to wait. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s ideal to be vaccinated by the end of October. As with the COVID-19 vaccine, it takes about two weeks to develop protection after getting vaccinated.
Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu shot at the same time?
Yes, you can get a flu shot and a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time, and many providers like pharmacies and health departments are offering both.
Who should get a flu shot?
It’s recommended annually for everyone six months and older, with rare exceptions, according to the CDC.
“We encourage our pregnant patients to get it. It’s safe,” said Dr. Darren Goff, a Mercy obstetrician, adding that pregnant patients are also encouraged to get the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccine. “Any time when a pregnant woman gets a vaccination, she shares antibodies with her baby.”
That protects the baby and the mother, Goff said. Pregnancy can put someone at higher risk for flu complications, he added.
It’s also recommended that anyone who will be around or care for a newborn baby also get their flu shot and Tdap vaccine to protect the child, according to the CDC.
Adults over 65, people with chronic