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Woman getting a vaccine shot

What to expect during the 2022-2023 flu season

You hear every year that you need to get a flu shot, but it’s especially crucial during the 2022-2023 flu season, says Saju Mathew, M.D., a Piedmont primary care physician.

How bad will the 2022-2023 flu season be?

“It’s important to get the flu shot every year, especially this year,” says Dr. Mathew. “America has completely opened up again. Adults are at work, kids are at school and most people aren’t wearing masks.”

He notes that the 2020 and 2021 flu seasons were almost nonexistent because of pandemic-related lockdowns and mask compliance.

“We’ll definitely have a worse flu season this year compared to 2020 and 2021,” he says. “While we don’t know exactly how bad it will be, we can often make predictions based on flu cases in the Southern Hemisphere, and they had a pretty bad flu season.”

Dr. Mathew is also concerned about what people are calling the “tripledemic,” which includes COVID-19, influenza (flu) and other respiratory viruses like Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) infections.

“We’re now seeing a surge in a common virus in kids called RSV,” he says. “It can affect adults as well. Unfortunately, we don’t have a vaccine for RSV, so that’s why it’s essential to get your flu shot and COVID booster.”

Is it too late to get a flu shot?

Dr. Mathew says the best time to get a flu shot is late October or early November. But if it’s after early November and you still haven’t gotten your shot, it’s definitely not too late. Experts believe the vaccine offers about four months of protection.

Should you get a COVID-19 booster with the flu shot?

If it’s been two months since your last COVID-19 vaccine or booster, he recommends getting the new bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster.

Can you get the flu shot and COVID-19 booster on the same day?

It’s safe to get the flu shot and COVID-19 booster on the same day, says Dr. Mathew.

“We’re already beginning to see a rise in flu, COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses,” he says. “If you don’t have time to space them out by a week, get both at the same time.”

Is the flu shot safe?

“The flu shot is absolutely safe,” says Dr. Mathew. “Also, you cannot get the flu from the flu shot.”

How effective is the flu shot?

The flu shot isn’t 100% effective, but if you get the flu vaccine and still get the flu, the severity of your symptoms will likely be much less than if you weren’t vaccinated, he says.

Are the COVID-19 vaccines and boosters safe? 

“The new COVID-19 vaccine booster is exactly the same as the original vaccine, but upgraded to protect against the Omicron variant,” says Dr. Mathew. “These vaccines were in trials with many people and we know they are safe.”

He notes that some people have voiced concerns about COVID-19 vaccine complications, such as myocarditis (inflammation of the heart). His response: “Your risk of developing myocarditis from the COVID-19 virus is much higher than your risk of complications from the vaccine.”

Who is eligible for a flu shot?

Everyone six months of age and older are eligible for the flu shot.

Who shouldn’t get a flu shot?

If you have a documented egg allergy, you should ask your doctor before getting a flu shot, says Dr. Mathew.

Other ways to protect yourself from respiratory illnesses

In addition to getting your flu shot and COVID-19 booster, there are other ways you can reduce your risk of respiratory illness:

  • Wash your hands often and before touching your face or eating. Encourage your children to wash their hands often as well.

  • Wear a well-fitted mask in crowded public places, such as a concert, mall, plane or train.

  • Teach your kids to cough or sneeze into their elbow instead of their hands.

“While the vaccines and mask individually don’t offer 100% protection, taking the layered, combined approach can greatly reduce your risk of illness,” he says. “It’s about doing everything you can to protect yourself, which includes vaccines, masks and other mitigation methods like handwashing.”

Stay healthy all year. Schedule your annual physical or flu shot appointment today through your Piedmont MyChart account or our website.

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