With 70% of Californians fully vaccinated against COVID-19, medical experts say now is the time to get a dose of the flu shot.
Last year, there were fears over a “twindemic” — COVID-19 and the flu ravaging the region at the same time — but it didn’t pan out.
UCI Health Family Health Centers physician Dr. José Mayorga talks about why it’s important to get a flu shot this fall.
KCRW: What are the odds of a twindemic in 2021?
José Mayorga: “[Last year] wasn't a one-two punch show, more just COVID.
I think that's all related to what happened last year … our kids were at home or remote learning or hybrid [learning]. That is likely why we didn't see such an increase [in] flu cases. As a matter of fact, it was probably one of the lowest years on record.
But now that we're in a different state, we are possibly looking at a very interesting winter with the flu and COVID.”
Now that kids are back in school, how likely are they to bring the flu home?
“It is absolutely very likely. … Kids are the ones that tend to be the spreaders of many viruses, including colds and the flu. So I definitely am going to encourage my patients, and even my own children, to get the vaccine.”
Is there an age limit for the flu vaccine?
“There is an age limit … six months and older are eligible to get the flu vaccine. Anyone under six months is not eligible to get that vaccination.”
What about people who are health-fatigued at this point and figure, ‘I got the COVID shots, do I really need to get another one for the flu?’
“I really want people to get this vaccine against the flu. … If you show up to my office, and you're feeling like you have the flu, I [would] love to know that you have the vaccine because it helps me from a medical decision standpoint.
If you walked in and you told me, ‘Dr. Mayorga, I didn't get the flu vaccine or my COVID vaccine.’ … What do you have? Do I have an opportunity to treat you with a drug known as Tamiflu for the flu? … I don't necessarily have a pill to prescribe you for COVID.”
Can people who just got their COVID vaccine or a booster shot be immunized against the flu at the same time?
“The current recommendation is [that] you could actually receive them both at the same time.
… There's a lot of people out there [who are] anxious to get two separate needles put into arms. ... My recommendation is maybe get one injected on one arm and the other on the other arm. But again, you make that choice. I will say personally, I already got my flu shot.”
Is it possible to get the flu from the flu shot?
“I love that myth … I absolutely want people to understand [that] you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine.
The reason why people have that still stuck in their minds is because it does take about four weeks to develop full protection against [the] flu.
So [if] you are circulating amongst others, maybe someone has the flu and they pass it on to you before that four-week period. And there you have it — you get infected and now you're going to put the blame on the shot.”
How effective are the flu vaccines?
“The efficacy of the flu vaccine does change year to year. The reason why is because we look at statistical data of what was circulating before, and so the manufacturing of the vaccination is based [on] that. Scientists take their best guess of what to include in that flu vaccine, and so that's why you don't see such high protections against getting infected from the flu. But [it’s] likely that you're not going to have such a serious infection if you come across it.”
Are the flu shots widely available like the COVID vaccine?
“Most folks will likely be able to get the flu vaccine as part of their insurance status. And in some cases, counties also offer free flu clinics. So I encourage everybody to look at those things and call your primary care doctor.”
Where to find a flu vaccine near you:
LA County will be hosting low-cost or free flu immunizations. You can call 2-1-1 to ask for the next clinic or visit their website for more information.
In Orange County, the OC Health Authority Public Health Services Family Health Clinics will be offering free flu shots during the weekdays. You will need to make an appointment ahead of time by calling 1-800-914-4887. You can also find a list of local Orange County clinics offering the shot at this link.
Ventura County Health Care Agency has flu clinics scheduled at this link.
Santa Barbara County residents will be able to get their flu shots at a number of health care centers, community clinics and hospitals.
If you live in Riverside County, you can visit the Riverside University Health System’s flu vaccine website for more information.
San Bernardino County will be sharing any future flu vaccine clinics they plan at this link.