ROCHESTER, Minn. — With so much focus on COVID-19 vaccines, the Mayo Clinic is reminding people to get the flu shot this year.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Priya Sampathkumar says last year's flu season was mild because most people were "using what is called COVID-appropriate behavior," which included avoiding crowds and masking up indoors.
"Last year was an amazing flu season," Sampathkumar said. "We had almost no cases of influenza at all."
This year, however, there are fewer COVID restrictions.
"This year, more people are at risk and so it makes it doubly important that we all get vaccinated against influenza," Sampathkumar said.
She says September is prime time to get the flu shot. People older than 6 months are eligible for the flu shot. Kids under 9 years old who have not previously been vaccinated against influenza would need two doses, and anyone over 9 would only need one.
"We have not heard of any supply issues with the flu vaccine so we should have plenty of flu vaccine to vaccinate everyone," Sampathkumar said. "The really good news is that you can get the COVID vaccine and the influenza vaccine at the same time."
Although the process to get vaccinated against the flu should come easily, she's concerned many people will avoid getting the flu shot, which she says could lead to a so-called "twindemic" of the two viruses.
"We've been seeing the rise in anti-vaxers over the last few years even before COVID," she said. "Right now without influenza, hospitals are already really strained in different parts of the country. You need the same kinds of resources for both influenza and COVID. You need medical ICUs, you need ventilators, you need oxygen."
"We're definitely very worried and that's why we're doing this — talking about flu vaccine — hoping to avoid this twindemic."
Despite popular belief, the Mayo Clinic says you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. However, you may experience side effects from the vaccine, which can feel like flu symptoms.