Flu season is upon us and brings with it complexities given the ongoing pandemic. With the abundance of information circulating around these questions, the Sunrise leadership team continues to turn to expert guidance from organizations like the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the World Health Organization as we navigate the newest layer of education related to COVID-19.
As we’ve already learned, the importance of protecting ourselves and our loved ones from the effects of COVID-19 by getting vaccinated remains the most important step in safeguarding the health and safety of all community members – residents, team members, partners, and friends. The CDC highlights evidence that shows that all three COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States are safe – as demonstrated by the over 400 million vaccine doses already given. And, they are all highly effective in reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, even in the midst of the widely circulating Delta variant.
Flu season brings with it the need for another layer of infection-control vigilance. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned that the United States could be at risk for a particularly severe flu season this year and urged Americans to get vaccinated for both COVID-19 and the flu. One of the reasons that the flu shot is particularly important this year is that immunity against influenza was greatly reduced when parts of the nation were shut down. Individuals can get sick with COVID-19 and flu at the same time, as they are both expected to be spreading this fall and winter.
According to the CDC, a yearly flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older and remains the best method to help prevent flu and its serious complications. For children, getting an annual flu vaccine can even be lifesaving. A flu vaccine can reduce the risk of becoming seriously ill from flu and even dying from it. In the era of COVID-19, getting a flu vaccine can also help keep people out of the hospital, leaving the beds for COVID-19 patients and others who truly need them. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, there are 69,000 Americans currently in inpatient beds across the United States, stressing hospitals and intensive care units that are operating at full capacity. The flu can claim up to 52,000 lives and result in up to 710,000 hospitalizations.
Now, as the availability of the COVID-booster shot enters the marketplace as an additional step in infection control, questions surrounding coadministration of the COVID booster and flu shots, as well as the potential side effects, are being heavily covered in the media. The CDC recommends that certain people receive a COVID-19 booster shot. Both the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authorization and CDC’s recommendation for use are important steps forward as we work to stay ahead of the virus and keep Americans safe. For individuals who received a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, the following groups are eligible for a booster shot at 6 months or more after their initial series:
- 65 years and older
- Age 18+ who live in long-term care settings
- Age 18+ who have underlying medical conditions
- Age 18+ who work or live in high-risk settings
For the nearly 15 million people who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, booster shots are also recommended for those who are 18 and older and who were vaccinated two or more months ago.
There are now booster recommendations for all three available COVID-19 vaccines in the United States. Eligible individuals may choose which vaccine they receive as a booster dose. Some people may have a preference for the vaccine type that they originally received, and others may prefer to get a different booster. CDC’s recommendations now allow for this type of mix and match dosing for booster shots. It is advisable that each individual with questions about their own vaccination requirements and potential reactions consult a health official.
As we continue to learn more about our commitment to protect as many people as possible from COVID-19, we will continue to share details from leading scientific organizations with our residents and their families. For now, we hope that you will take all possible steps to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.