Health officials are urging people to get their flu shots now, in an attempt to prevent further strain on hospitals already overwhelmed by Covid-19 and other viruses. The push to get flu shots as soon as possible comes as two studies warn that this flu season could be a miserable one.
“There are some factors that we cannot control as far as how bad the flu season is going to be,” said Xiaoyan Song, chief infection control officer at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., “but there are some that we absolutely have control over.”
“Get vaccinated,” she said.
It is notoriously difficult to predict what will happen in any flu season. But a combination of factors could make this winter particularly tough, experts said.
Children are back in school, often in communities that have eased up on mask mandates and physical distancing measures. And since flu was minimal to nonexistent last year, people were not exposed to the virus, potentially undermining the protection they’d normally have.
“Much of the immunity that we have as a population occurs because people in the population had influenza last year, and if they get a similar strain circulating, they won’t get influenza the second year,” Dr. Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, said during a media briefing recently.
In other words, he said, the dramatic decrease in flu cases last year has the potential to dramatically increase cases this year.