CDC Urges Flu Shots For Americans; OKs Getting COVID Shot at Same Time

Though vaccination pushes in the U.S. have been largely focused recently on halting the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging Americans not to forget about immunization against another virus: the flu.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky encouraged people to get their flu shots so that America could avoid dual surges, and said it was okay for people to receive both vaccines, the Associated Press reported.

Walensky said that though Americans are "tired of talking about vaccines," it is "doubly important" to get their flu shot this year. Walensky, who received her own flu shot earlier this week, added that "we are preparing for the return of the flu."

Respiratory syncytial virus, which usually infects children during the winter, surged over this past summer as lower COVID infections and updated guidance gave people the confidence to stop wearing masks. Dr. William Shaffner of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases warned against a possible "twindemic" of COVID-19 and the flu in light of this surge, the AP reported.

"Is that a harbinger of a worse influenza season? We don't know, but we certainly don't want a 'twindemic,' both COVID and influenza," Schaffner said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

CDC Urges Flu Shot
Though vaccination pushes in the U.S. have been largely focused recently on halting the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging Americans not to forget about immunization against another virus: the flu. A person stands by a sign advertising flu shots at CVS as the city continues the re-opening efforts following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on December 01, 2020 in New York City. Noam Galai/Getty Images

Flu cases dropped to historically low levels globally over the pandemic, as restrictions designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus helped block other respiratory viruses. But with schools and businesses reopened, international travel resuming and far less masking, there's no way to predict how bad a flu season the U.S. might expect this winter.

And if you still need a COVID-19 vaccination -- either first shots or a booster dose -- you can get it at the same visit as a flu shot.

The CDC recommends yearly flu vaccination for just about everyone starting with 6-month-old babies. Influenza is especially dangerous for older adults, children under age 5, people with chronic health problems such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease, and during pregnancy.

Last fall, about as many Americans overall got their flu vaccination as they did before the pandemic -- about half of the eligible population, according to CDC data released Thursday. But Walensky was dismayed by a slight drop in child flu vaccinations last year -- and at widening racial and ethnic disparities. Last year, 43 percent of Black Americans and 45 percent of Hispanics got a flu vaccination compared to 56 percent of whites.

The CDC expects vaccine makers to deliver 188 million to 200 million doses of flu vaccine. Most Americans with insurance can get one without a co-pay. Options include regular shots, shots that aim to give older adults a little extra protection, and a nasal spray. All offer protection against four different flu strains that global experts predict are the kinds most likely to spread this year.

At the same time they get vaccinated against flu, officials also urged older adults and people with chronic illnesses to ask about getting a vaccine against a type of pneumonia that is a frequent complication.

CDC Urges Flu Shot
Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urged Americans to get their flu shots on top of their COVID-19 vaccines. Walensky arrives at a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on July 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Stefani Reynolds/Pool/Getty Images