IDAHO — December 5 through 11 marks National Influenza Vaccination Week, encouraging everyone to get their flu shot.
Flu shots are encouraged for people six months old and up, especially those in certain age groups or those who may have chronic conditions.
"The vulnerable populations are those individuals who are younger than five years old, anyone over 65, and anyone with a chronic condition, especially respiratory conditions," says Dr. Drew Oliveira, a Senior Executive Medical Director with Regence. "Children who have asthma, they should be vaccinated. Those with a chronic lung disease or even things like diabetes are going to be more vulnerable to the flu and the impact of the flu."
Dr. Oliveira adds anyone who lives with someone in a vulnerable group should also get vaccinated. While flu season runs from fall to spring, it's better to get vaccinated as soon as possible to give yourself at least two weeks of immunity as we head into the peak flu season.
"The typical flu season is about four months in length. It varies depending on what part of the country you're in and what latitude you're in, so typically, now through March is when we will see the flu in our communities," Dr. Oliveira explains.
Based on guidance from federal agencies, more people 18+ are eligible to get their COVID-19 booster shots. Dr. Oliveira says you can save time and get your booster and your flu shot all at once.
Flu activity was unusually low last year, something many experts credit to people taking COVID-19 precautions that also work to protect against the flu.
"If we continue those this year, the flu activity will be lower. We're not seeing that in our communities. We're seeing more people indoors, more people sharing the same space, so we are a little concerned that going to increase the incidents of flu this year as compared to last year," says Dr. Oliveira.
Experts suggest continuing measures like wearing a mask, social distancing, avoiding large indoor gatherings, and washing your hands regularly, but the best way to protect yourself is by getting your flu and COVID vaccine.
Dr. Oliveira understands people may be exhausted by the constant messaging of getting your vaccine, but reframing the conversation could make a difference.
"Let's think of them as ways to protect our community. We do tetanus shots, we do a number of shots with our children. Let's make that part of our routine, and I'm fairly confident that we'll see improvements in our community."
Many pharmacies offer a flu vaccine for free with most health insurance coverage. COVID shots are also offered for free. To find more information about getting your shot, talk to your healthcare provider or click here.