From ALLtech medical provider Regence BlueShield
Some years, flu season is less severe than others. The 2020-21 flu season was mild, partly because of the safety practices in place to avoid COVID-19, such as physical distancing and mask wearing.
Earth’s southern hemisphere — where winter flu season typically peaks between June and September — provides a preview of the kind of flu season we can expect north of the equator later in the year. And based on reports from Australia and New Zealand this summer, where flu season started earlier and hit much harder than usual, our 2022‑23 flu season is expected to be severe. Both countries had what’s been described as the biggest surge in winter illness ever, with double the average number of flu hospitalizations, persistent COVID-19 infections and a massive rise in other viruses and respiratory illnesses.
Flu season in the United States officially began on Sept. 1, and will stretch through March 2023. During this time, when more people stay indoors longer, flu will spread just as it does every year. It will likely cause many hospitalizations and an average of 20,000 to 60,000 deaths, mostly among people vulnerable to complications, including pregnant people, seniors and those with chronic health conditions.
Protect your and your family’s health with an annual flu shot
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual flu shots for everyone 6 months and older, with rare exceptions. Getting vaccinated can reduce the risk of serious illness and death, costly hospital and doctor visits, and missed work and school.
Yet fewer than half of U.S. adults get annual preventive flu shots; the majority take their chances and hope they don’t catch it.
Even those who don’t consider themselves to be at risk of flu-related illness or death should get vaccinated to help lower their risk of spreading the virus to others who may be vulnerable.
Flu vaccines are proven effective, but not all are recommended for every individual
Flu vaccines are updated each year to fight the latest strain of the virus, and more than one effective vaccine is available to most recipients. Recently the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended people age 65 or older receive a new high-dose version of flu vaccine when it’s available. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for the vaccine that’s appropriate for your age.
COVID-19 is present year-round
The same conditions that can cause flu to spread — mainly people spending more time indoors — are expected to continue fueling COVID-19 surges. To help prevent serious illness and death, the CDC recommends that people age 6 months and older stay up to date on their vaccinations. People age 5 and older can get a booster dose as well. The CDC recommends people age 12 and older get boosted with the newest reformulated COVID-19 vaccine that targets the highly transmissible omicron variant of the virus. People are eligible for the latest booster when a minimum of two months have passed since they received their most recent booster. You can get your flu shot and COVID-19 vaccination at the same time.
Playing catch-up to keep up
If you or your loved ones have fallen behind on getting routine vaccinations since the onset of the pandemic, consider getting caught up while you’re receiving your flu shot and COVID-19 booster. With the polio virus being detected recently in New York, you may want to check with your pediatrician to make sure you’ve been vaccinated against it; similarly, people age 50 and older who’ve had chickenpox should get a two-dose series of shingles vaccines, which provide a high level of immunity for at least seven years.
ALLtech members can get vaccinated at no cost
Flu, COVID-19, polio and shingles vaccines are covered at no cost to most Regence members — including those enrolled through ALLtech — when received at an in-network pharmacy or provider office. Members can visit their account on regence.com or the Regence app, or call the number on their member ID card, to quickly find local in-network providers who stand ready to give them a flu-fighting poke in the arm, along with necessary boosters, to help keep them healthy this year and for years to come.