Flu season approaches as providers prepare to give out vaccines, COVID boosters

Local health departments, pharmacies scheduling flu vaccines, new COVID boosters now.

Local pharmacies are starting to offer flu shots for the flu season, and with the anticipated arrival of the updated COVID-19 booster shots this week, health officials say individuals can get both shots at the same time.

Anyone who is 12 years old and older can get one of the updated COVID-19 booster shots at least two months after their last dose, according to the Ohio Department of Health. The new booster shots from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have been updated to provide broader overall protection against COVID-19, along with stronger protection against the omicron variant.

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Health officials say getting both the new booster shot and the flu shot can help protect against severe illness.

“You can get them in the same appointment if where you’re getting it from has the ability to do that,” said Dan Suffoletto, public information manager for Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County (PHDMC).

Local health departments are beginning to schedule appointments for the new COVID-19 boosters now, with upcoming appointments happening as soon as Thursday in Clark County and Friday in Greene County. PHDMC is scheduling appointments for next week with its next clinic being held on Wednesday, Sept. 14.

“We’ve been scheduling appointments all week,” said Nate Smith, communications coordinator for the Clark County Combined Health District. Clark County will have both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines available.

Getting ready for flu season

Local health officials are recommending individuals also get the flu vaccine to protect against getting seriously ill from influenza.

“Vaccines are developed with the idea that you can avoid serious illness,” said Laurie Fox, public information officer with Greene County Public Health. “You can still get a variant of the flu.”

Flu vaccines, like COVID vaccines, are not able to provide complete protection against getting the virus, but the goal is to avoid severe reactions or hospitalizations.

Local health departments recommend individuals who are six months old and older get the flu vaccine. Vaccine manufacturers have projected that they will supply the U.S. with as many as 173.5 million to 183.5 million doses of influenza vaccines, according to the Centers for Disease Control. These projections may change as the season progresses.

“Getting the flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from getting seriously ill from the flu,” Suffoletto said.

The CDC also recommends individuals get vaccinated by the end of October, noting vaccinations taking place after October can still provide protection during the peak of flu season.

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What past flu seasons have shown

“We’ve seen fairly mild flu over the last couple years because most people have been wearing masks,” Fox said. “We just don’t know what this flu season will bring.”

During the last flu season, influenza activity in Ohio was minimal or low, according to PHDMC. Compared to the five-year average, influenza-associated hospitalizations were significantly lower in Montgomery County, West Central Ohio, and Ohio. The West Central Ohio region includes Auglaize, Butler, Champaign, Clark, Darke, Greene, Miami, Montgomery, Preble, Shelby, and Warren counties.

The five-year average of hospitalizations for Montgomery County, West Central Ohio, and Ohio are 654 hospitalizations; 1,675 hospitalizations; and 10,100 hospitalizations, respectively, not including the 2020-2021 influenza season due to potential irregularities.

Influenza-associated hospitalizations

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During the 2021-2022 influenza season, West Central Ohio accounted for nearly a quarter of Ohio influenza-associated hospitalizations with 479 hospitalizations out of a total of 1,979 hospitalizations statewide. Montgomery County accounted for most (203 or 42%) of the West Central Ohio influenza-associated hospitalizations with 203 hospitalizations or 42%, followed by Butler County at 70 hospitalizations or 15%.

Health experts in the U.S. look to places like Australia and New Zealand to gauge how the flu season may take off domestically since Australia and New Zealand have their flu seasons from April to October, the winter months in the Southern Hemisphere.

Looking at Australia, Smith said they have had a rougher flu season this year. According to the Australian Government’s Department of Health and Aged Care, this is the most flu activity the country has had in five years.

Due to more people gathering this year than they have in the past two years due to the pandemic, health departments are anticipating an increase in the number of people who will get the flu.

In addition to vaccines, local health departments recommend continuing to wash your hands, clean frequently touched surfaces clean, and staying home if you are sick.

“All of those things will help you stay healthy,” Fox said.

How to get vaccinated:

Visit https://gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov/ to set up an appointment for the new COVID-19 booster online. Visit https://www.vaccines.gov/ to find both COVID-19 and flu vaccine locations, or check with your local pharmacy.

Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County (PHDMC) will be holding vaccine clinics next week starting on Wednesday, Sept. 14. Appointments are recommended. Visit phdmc.org or call 937-225-4550 to schedule an appointment.

Greene County Public Health holds COVID-19 vaccine clinics on Fridays from 8:30-10 a.m. and 2-3:30 p.m. The new COVID-19 boosters will be available at Greene County Public Health on Friday, Sept. 9.

The Clark County Combined Health District is currently scheduling individuals for the updated COVID-19 boosters. Call (937) 717-2439 to schedule an appointment.

The Clark County Combined Health District also provides flu vaccines on an appointment basis at its Home Road location from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays. Call (937) 390-5600 to schedule an appointment.

The Butler County Health Department offers vaccines Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays from 9 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m.

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