Flu shot reminders are popping up at retail pharmacies and grocery stores. Although the season comes around once a year, the virus itself is constantly changing. Shalika Katugaha, MD, system medical director of infectious diseases at Baptist Health, helped us look ahead to the flu forecast for the 2022-23 season.
Starting with facts
Flu season occurs in the fall and winter in the U.S., with activity typically peaking between December and February. It can last as late as May. More specific timing of the season’s peak is difficult to predict and can vary in different parts of the country.
“Flu is among the deadliest vaccine-preventable diseases in the country,” said Dr. Katugaha. “Annual vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months and older. Also, the CDC recommends getting a flu shot before peak season. Make plans to get it in September or October.”
The season ahead
Experts look at the flu season in the southern hemisphere and Australia to make predictions about what we may experience in the U.S. each year.
According to Dr. Katugaha, this season has the potential to be severe and may peak early.
“The Australian flu season, which typically runs from June to September, started early this year, in April,” explained Dr. Katugaha. “It also peaked months ahead of what is typically seen.”
In the winter, it’s expected we’ll see another “twindemic” of both COVID-19 and flu. This will likely occur because people are returning to normal, pre-pandemic activities with less immunity to influenza because of lack of infection for the past two seasons.
It's easy to protect yourself
“We can’t succumb to vaccine fatigue and forgo a flu shot or the new COVID-19 boosters targeting omicron variants,” said Dr. Katugaha. “Don’t put yourself at risk for these preventable infections.”
Because the flu virus changes each year, the composition of the vaccines is updated annually. All versions in the U.S. are “quadrivalent,” which means they protect against four different strains.
For adults ages 65 and older, there’s a new recommendation to receive a flu vaccine that's higher than the standard dose. Studies suggest that, in this age group, high-dose vaccines are potentially more effective than the standard dose of flu vaccines.
While vaccination is recommended for all by the end of October each year, getting the shot after that can still provide protection during the peak of the season, reminded Dr. Katugaha.
“There’s no need to panic, but it's important to prepare for the season ahead with the tools we have: vaccines, tests and treatments,” said Dr. Katugaha. “The bottom line – let’s roll up our sleeves.”
Looking for a flu vaccine? Your primary care physician or child’s pediatrician may be offering it. We recommend checking with the office before you go to ensure supply. If you’re looking for a primary care doctor, fill out the appointment request form. Flu vaccines are also available at Walgreens, CareSpot and other retail locations.