“The coronavirus has changed the pattern of influenza to some extent,” says Sri Chagotoro, CVS Health® executive vice president and medical director. At the start of the pandemic, COVID-19 protections like masks and social distancing reduced the number of flu cases, he says. But as people interact more, the incidence of influenza increases.
“We expect the flu season to start a little earlier this year and be much more severe in terms of the number of cases we see historically,” Sri says.
protect good health
That’s why a flu shot — along with an updated COVID-19 vaccine and other seasonal vaccines — are essential to good health.
Millions of people get the flu every year. Hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized. “Tens of thousands of people are dying,” says Sree. “The flu vaccine is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family. It has been shown to reduce flu-related illnesses and the risk of serious flu complications.”
Annual influenza vaccination is recommended for most people 6 months of age and older, especially essential workers, individuals 65 or older, immunocompromised individuals and those with chronic medical conditions.
Remember, the flu vaccine takes about two weeks to build up immunity in the body, Sri adds. “Getting vaccinated early in the fall, ideally before the end of October, ensures that as the flu season begins to increase, you have amassed protection.”
COVID-19 Boosters and Additional Vaccines
Hoping to similarly avoid a downturn in COVID-19 cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now recommending the use of bivalent vaccine boosters that also target newer sub-variants of Omicron. But success in reducing the number of COVID-19 cases in the fall and winter will depend on how many people are vaccinated.
While flu vaccines don’t protect you from COVID-19 — and COVID-19 vaccines do not — it’s easy, and recommended, to get both. Patients can get the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu shot at the same time. At CVS pharmacy, patients can schedule both vaccines at the same appointment.
Currently, the updated Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 booster is approved for people age 12 and older while Moderna is licensed for those age 18 or older, according to the CDC. Sree says that your local CVS pharmacists, or your doctor, can help you determine eligibility as well.
Linda Mullaka, MD, director of CVS Pharmacy® in Pembroke Pines, Florida, encourages her eligible patients to seek support. “It’s always good to have as much protection as we can get — that’s the purpose of vaccines, to help prevent hospitalization or serious complications,” she says.
They can also offer other vaccines—pneumonia, shingles, HPV, and meningitis—and help clients decide what they may need. “Pharmacists are well versed in knowing which patients need certain vaccines,” she says. “So, I am definitely one of your great resources.”
Using the CVS Health Dashboard, patients can also keep track of the vaccinations they receive, which may be especially useful for younger Americans. New national Harris Poll commissioned by CVS Health shows younger Americans are missing out on their immunizations: 1 in 3 Generation Z and millennials say they don’t know when it’s time to receive additional vaccinations — and not sure where they should get additional vaccinations . Find their vaccination records.
Make the vaccinations appropriate
To help people stay up to date, the CVS Pharmacy and MinuteClinic® websites offer flu shots, COVID-19 shots, boosters and many other vaccinations every day, evenings and weekends included.
“Eighty-five percent of people live within 10 miles of CVS Pharmacy, and we have over 9,000 locations across the country, so it’s definitely more convenient than a typical 9-to-5 doctors clinic,” Linda says. “We’re all there — the MinuteClinic providers, CVS pharmacists — every day, every night, every weekend, for our community.”
Recent Harris Poll data also shows that more than half of parents with children under 6 find the entire vaccination process stressful. That’s why CVS Health enables patients to schedule vaccination appointments at CVS.com, through the CVS App or by logging into any MinuteClinic.
Families can also schedule group vaccination appointments for up to four people online.
“We try to make this as convenient as possible,” Sri says. “Our digital scheduling software provides the flexibility and ability to schedule multiple patients at once, so that families or groups can be vaccinated together.”
Linda says the new group hires have been a success so far. “Parents really like it because they’re kind of a role model for the kids — look, daddy and mom would get it too,” she says. “Everyone comes and everyone leaves happy. It’s much easier.”
Luanne, who has made an appointment to give her family an online flu shot, agrees. “It’s really convenient to be able to bring the whole family there and get vaccinated at the same time, rather than having to bring the kids to the doctor separately.”
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