Experts say October is the best time to get COVID boosters, flu shots

With doctor’s offices and pharmacies now offering seasonal flu shots and updated COVID-19 boosters, experts are urging Americans to get both, with many saying October is the best time.

While experts say October may be an ideal window to boost immunity, they’re also stressing the importance of vaccinations, period — whenever you’re able. Experts say it’s safe for people to take both shots during the same visit for added convenience.

White House COVID coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha told ABC News that the best time to get a new updated COVID-19 booster is “no later than the end of October for maximum protection,” along with flu shot timing recommendations. aligns.

October is also the “Goldilocks moment” for the flu shot, said Dr. Peter Chin-hong, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco. However, anyone who gets shot in September should still expect protection during flu season, which usually lasts until spring.

“I guess my general advice is, get it [when] It’s convenient,” Chin-hong said.

Experts also say don’t worry if you can’t get your flu shot before Halloween.

“If you can’t get the flu shot by the end of October for whatever reason, it’s not too late,” said Dr. Alok Patel, a pediatrician at Stanford Children’s Health and medical contributor to ABC News.

Bad flu season on the horizon?

Some experts predict that the seasonal influenza virus – after two years of mild activity during the COVID-19 pandemic – is expected to return fully this season.

According to a typical pre-pandemic year, about 8% of the US population would be sick with the flu. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Deaths may exceed 50,000, as they recently did 2017-2018 season,

Photo: Gustavo Perez receives an influenza vaccine from pharmacist Patricia Pernal during an event organized by the Chicago Department of Public Health at Southwest Senior Center in Chicago, September 9, 2022.

Gustavo Perez receives an influenza vaccine from pharmacist Patricia Pernal during an event organized by the Chicago Department of Public Health at Southwest Senior Center in Chicago, September 9, 2022.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

The elderly and immunocompromised are most at risk of serious illness from influenza.

“What we are concerned about, of course, are people who are over the age of 65. They account for about 15-17% of the population, but 80% of the population. [flu] deaths and hospitalizations,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

But even young, otherwise healthy people benefit from the flu shot, which also reduces the risk of spreading the virus to others.

“Low risk means no risk. By getting vaccinated, you actually reduce the chance that you will be a dangerous spreader,” Schaffner said.

Meanwhile, getting sick with the flu can not only affect vacation planning, but it also often produces unwanted symptoms that last for several days.

“For anyone who has had the flu, it’s definitely not a walk in the park,” Chin-hong said.

Getting vaccinated in October or early November is ideal because “[you want] Your annual vaccination will extend throughout the winter, from February to March, and even into April,” Schaffner said.

“The only other kind of change may occur over time for pregnant people,” Chin-hong said. She explained that pregnant women can try getting a flu shot before delivery, which benefits the newborn from the mother’s antibodies, especially given that babies under 6 months old cannot be vaccinated.

Experts say flu shots could be especially important for children this year, amid concerns about how the relaxation of pandemic-era restrictions could affect children.

“Given the fact that schools are back open, COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, and children are back to their usual fussy nature [they] There is a risk of catching influenza this year,” Patel said. “Parents should not treat influenza as common as the common cold. Thousands of children are hospitalized each year with influenza, with young infants and children with underlying medical conditions being most at risk.”

Updated COVID-19 boosters could also become an annual shot

The Food and Drug Administration recently authorized the first updated COVID-19 booster shots – the first major upgrade to COVID-19 vaccines. Because protection from COVID-19 gradually fades over time, the White House has previously said that even different types of COVID shots could become an annual reality, similar to seasonal flu shots.

The new COVID-19 boosters are designed to be a better match against the COVID-19 variants currently running, and are currently authorized for everyone who took their last COVID-19 shot at least two months ago . People previously infected with COVID may also consider waiting 90 days before receiving their booster shot. according to CDC, Peter Marks, director of the group within the FDA responsible for ensuring the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, authorization of the updated booster for young children is expected “in a few weeks”.

While it is unclear whether there will be another COVID-19 surge this fall, more than 350 people die of COVID-19 every day. Compared to younger adults, those over the age of 65 are 60 times more likely to die from COVID-19, according to CDC, The death rate is 340 times higher for those over the age of 85.

Is it safe to take a COVID booster and flu shot at the same time?

Experts say that getting both your COVID booster and flu shot at the same time will not weaken your body’s immunity to fight any virus.

“If you give the body two signals, it’s not going to diminish [immunity] Because it’s focusing on another signal,” Chin-hong said.

Although children under 12 are not yet eligible for the new booster shots, many are getting their original COVID-19 vaccines, which are authorized for children 6 months and older.

Similar to guidance for adults, pediatricians say it is safe to give a COVID-19 shot and a flu shot to young children in the same doctor’s visit.

“It may be an even more convenient option for busy parents,” Patel said.

Youri Benadjaoud is an MPH candidate at Brown University and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

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