NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — As COVID cases continue to climb across Tennessee, it's easy to forget flu season is looming. Doctors are encouraging everyone to start planning now to get a flu shot.
"We have to respect the both of these viruses, and do everything we can to protect ourselves," said Dr. William Schaffner, an Infectious Disease Specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "We got away with it last year, but this year, I think we will have flu."
Dr. Schaffner recommends everyone 6 months and older get a seasonal flu shot between the end of September and beginning of November. He said this will provide protection against the virus through February into March. Flu season typically peaks in January or February.
While last year's flu season turned out to be the mildest on record, Dr. Schaffner predicted this year will be a different story. He said people are spending more time out of their homes, and with kids in school, germs will spread more easily.
The CDC now says it's safe to get both a flu vaccines and COVID shot at once, but if you plan to take that approach, Dr. Schaffner said you should be prepared to experience soreness in your arms.
"You have to get your COVID vaccine, and your flu vaccine," said Dr. Schaffner. "They don’t cross protect. You have to think about them separately."
Infectious disease experts also have concerns about so-called "vaccine fatigue" due to the pandemic, and that people may be weary about getting flu shots. Dr. Schaffner said if people don't get vaccinated, the result could be a "twindemic" that would feature a surge in COVID cases and increased flu activity. He said the combination would take a toll on the health care system.
"We need to protect ourselves and our neighbors, and help protect our friends who are trying to help us when we get sick," said Dr. Schaffner.
Wearing masks, social distancing and good hand hygiene can also help reduce your chances of getting the flu, but Dr. Shaffner said getting vaccinated also needs to be part of your plan.
"Do everything you can to protect yourself against these two nasty viruses."