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Flu season could be rough this year. Here’s why you should get a vaccine

Local health experts are concerned that this year’s flu season could be severe, leading to a “twindemic” as COVID-19 persists.|

Local health experts are concerned that this year’s flu season could be severe, leading to a “twindemic” as COVID-19 persists. They are urging Sonoma County residents to get their flu shots.

Those particularly susceptible to infection are older adults and young children, who can have weakened or not fully developed immune systems.

“I think its really important people get the COVID booster and flu shot this year because we could be in for a rough winter season,” said Dr. Gary Green, an infectious disease expert with Sutter Medical Group of the Redwoods in Santa Rosa.

The preceding winter flu season in the Southern Hemisphere can help predict what flu season will look like in the Northern Hemisphere, Green said.

Australia has had its worst flu season in five years, already with 1,708 hospital admissions and 288 deaths this year, according to the country's Department of Health and Aged Care.

“Because COVID is getting better in Australia, they have relaxed some of the public health mask and distancing mandates … leading to a remarkably severe influenza season,” Green said.

The influenza strain, H3N2, that pushed Australian hospitals to their capacity, is expected to have a similar effect in the United States, according to Green.

The good news, Green said, is that this year’s flu shots are a “good match” to the H3N2 strain, and are safe to pair with COVID-19 booster shots.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as Green, suggest scheduling a COVID-19 booster and influenza shot in the coming weeks, to prepare for the winter season.

The CDC recommends annual flu shots for everyone 6 months and older between early September and late October.

New this season for people 65 years and older are three new flu vaccines that are recommended over standard-dose flu vaccines. These are Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent vaccine, FluBlok Quadrivalent recombinant flu vaccine and Fluad Quadrivalent adjuvanted flu vaccine, and they protect against four different strains of influenza.

These new higher dose vaccines are recommended for people 65 years and older because they are potentially more effective than standard dose flu vaccines, the CDC states on its website.

More information on this new recommendation can be found on the CDC’s flu website.

You can schedule an appointment at your doctor’s office or at local drugstores, like CVS, Walgreens, and more.

Kylie Lawrence can be reached at kylie.lawrence@pressdemocrat.com.

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