Flu 2021 Forecast: Do I Still Need a Flu Vaccine This Year Even If Last Season Was Mild?
Sep 29, 2021
Influenza (flu) can be serious for anyone, even healthy children and adults. Millions of people get sick with flu every year in the U.S., hundreds of thousands end up in the hospital, and as many as 61,000 die – including over 100 children. In fact, prior to COVID-19, flu was the deadliest vaccine-preventable disease in the U.S.
Why was last flu season so mild?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020-2021 flu season was thankfully very mild. Largely because the things we do to protect ourselves and our communities from COVID-19 help protect against flu, too. This includes things like:
- Mask wearing
- Hand washing
- Social distancing
- School and office closures
- Reduced domestic and international travel
- People staying home while sick
- Increased flu vaccination rates in adults
What can we expect for the 2021-2022 flu season?
Now that parts of the U.S. and other countries are relaxing COVID-19 protections like social distancing and mask-wearing, it’s likely that we will see other vaccine-preventable diseases like flu start spreading again. Flu activity is generally unpredictable, but experts fear that this flu season could be bad. Because last season was mild, fewer people have antibodies protecting them. The good news is that we can help protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities by getting a flu vaccine! And by getting vaccinated we can also help alleviate the stress on our healthcare systems as the U.S. continues to grapple with COVID-19.
Are there new flu vaccines available this year?
New flu vaccines are developed every year to help protect against the dominant circulating strains based on global, year-round surveillance of flu activity. Even though there wasn’t a lot of flu activity last season, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still had enough information to make an informed decision about which flu strains to include in this season’s flu vaccines. All flu vaccines available this year within the U.S. are quadrivalent, meaning that they help protect against four different types of flu virus.
In the U.S., flu vaccines are made using different methods, but they all protect against the same flu viruses. We encourage people to talk to a trusted healthcare professional about which flu vaccine(s) is right for them.
Have you read:
- Why We Celebrate “Flu Shot Day” in Our Home
- 3 Things I’ve Learned Since Losing My Son to Flu
- A Pastor’s Perspective: The Moral Case for Getting a Flu Vaccine
What are the benefits of flu vaccination?
A yearly flu vaccine can help protect you and your loved ones from getting seriously sick or dying from flu. Sadly, personal stories illustrate that flu does not discriminate and can be serious for anyone – no matter their age, gender, health status, ethnicity, or lifestyle. Because flu can lead to complications like pneumonia and sepsis, flu vaccination is especially important for high-risk individuals such as people with serious or long-term health issues (e.g., asthma, diabetes, heart disease), older adults (65+ years), pregnant people, and young children.
Flu vaccination is the best defense we have against flu, and the more people that are vaccinated, the less the disease can spread in our communities. Flu vaccination (and vaccination in general) is a team effort!
When should I get a flu vaccine and where can I find one?
You should receive a flu vaccine preferably by the end of October. It takes your body about two weeks after vaccination to build up immunity. So it’s best to get vaccinated before flu starts spreading in your area. Flu vaccination later in the season (i.e., after October) can still help protect you, so long as it occurs before peak flu season (e.g., January or February).
Flu vaccines are available in many places, including doctors’ offices or clinics, pharmacies, and sometimes even at local health departments, urgent care facilities, grocery stores, and schools. Starting in October, you can find a flu vaccine near you by visiting vaccines.gov. Most health insurance plans pay for routine vaccinations like flu. Children aged 18 years and younger who are uninsured, underinsured, Medicaid-eligible, American Indian or Alaska Native can receive vaccines through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. If you’re an uninsured or underinsured adult, you can reach out to your state or local health department, a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), or a Rural Health Clinic (RHC). Visit our Paying for Vaccines tool to learn more.
How can I track flu activity in my community?
You can track flu activity at national, state, and local levels through several sources such as CDC’s FluView and state health departments.
Can I get a flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time?
Yes, you can get a flu vaccine and a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time. According to the CDC, it is safe to get both vaccines at the same time, although they recommend getting them in different arms.
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