Flu Season Is Around the Corner—Get Your Shot Now
Influenza Vaccine Is Available Today at Clinics and Doctors' Offices; Cedars-Sinai Experts Urge the Public to Protect Themselves and Others
Masking, physical distancing and other measures employed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic virtually eliminated influenza during the 2020-2021 flu season. But Cedars-Sinai physicians say the flu is headed for a comeback and they urge everyone 6 months and older to get their flu shots.
"We definitely think there's going to be influenza this season," said Caroline Goldzweig, MD, chief medical officer of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Network. "Pandemic restrictions have been loosened and people are socializing. As a result, we're seeing patients in our clinics with colds and kids with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which can be dangerous in babies and which we usually don't see until later in the fall."
Cedars-Sinai has flu vaccine, including high-dose vaccine for ages 65 and older, available now at clinics in Beverly Hills, Culver City, Marina del Rey, Santa Monica and Playa Vista, and at physicians' offices. Family flu clinics will take place from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 31 in Beverly Hills.
Appointments are required for all flu shot clinics. Cedars-Sinai patients who have seen their primary care doctors within the last 18 months can schedule flu shots via My CS-Link. Those who aren't yet Cedars-Sinai patients can call 1-800-CEDARS-1 for a physician appointment.
"This year, we expect influenza and COVID-19 to circulate at the same time," said Jonathan Grein, MD, director of Hospital Epidemiology at Cedars-Sinai. "By getting people vaccinated and preventing influenza, we preserve our limited healthcare resources and hospital beds. Because COVID-19 and influenza have overlapping symptoms, getting vaccinated against the flu also preserves COVID-19 testing resources. These things are critical to keep our community safe as we continue to respond to the pandemic."
Influenza kills tens of thousands of people in the U.S. during a typical year, and while children and the elderly are most vulnerable, others who become infected also risk serious illness.
"I don't think you should underestimate the toll that the flu takes on healthy people," said Goldzweig. "A true influenza infection causes people to be really, really sick with fever and muscle aches, and can put you out of work for three weeks. We also know that it is possible to get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, and that would be a bad situation."
In California, flu season generally lasts from October through March, and health experts suggest being vaccinated before the virus begins circulating. For those who still need to receive COVID-19 vaccine, Goldzweig said a two-week gap between COVID-19 and flu shots is no longer considered necessary. It is safe to receive them at the same visit and won't affect the effectiveness of either vaccine.
Grein said that flu season can be unpredictable and may begin earlier than expected. "And as with vaccines against COVID-19, it takes about two weeks for your immune system to respond," he said, "so don't wait too long to get the flu shot."
Those who experience mild flu-like symptoms, such as cough, congestion, muscle pain and fever, should be tested for COVID-19, then stay at home and self-isolate until they are fever-free for 24 hours without the aid of over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol, Grein said.
"Most people with the flu will have mild illness and will not need medical care," Grein said, "but call your doctor early if you are 65 or older or have an underlying medical condition. Only go to the emergency room if you’re having more severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, severe weakness or chest pain."
Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: Understanding Vaccine Boosters