The Oklahoman

When to get your flu shot and what to expect this flu season in Oklahoma

- Dana Branham

After a mild flu season last year — with Oklahoma recording some of the lowest numbers of flu-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 flu infections down last season.

“It’s hard to say exactly what may happen with this year’s flu season, because since we’ve been tracking flu, we really haven’t had a situation like this where we have such intense mitigation factors that flu drops so low,” said Cassandra Mecoy, an epidemiolo­gist with the Oklahoma Health Department.

But some profession­als are concerned we could see a “rebound effect” this season, Mecoy said.

“If they weren’t exposed the year before or didn’t have flu, they have more susceptibi­lity to flu than they would in a typical season,” she said.

Here’s what you need to know about flu this year:

When is it best to get a flu shot?

Soonest is best, experts said. A flu vaccine is the best way to protect against severe complicati­ons.

“The best time to start thinking about getting your flu shot is right now,” Mecoy said. “In my family, we get them usually the first or second week of October, but your provider may already have flu 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 flu shot and a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time, and many providers like pharmacies and health department­s are offering 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 flu complicati­ons, he added.

It’s also recommende­d that anyone who will be around or care for a newborn baby also get their flu shot and Tdap vaccine to protect the child, according to the CDC.

Adults over 65, people with chronic

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