“Covid has changed the pattern of influenza to some extent,” says Sri Chaguthuru, executive vice president and chief medical officer of CVS Health®. At the beginning of the pandemic, protective measures against COVID-19, such as masks and social distancing, reduced the number of cases of the flu, he said. But as people socialize more, the number of flu cases is increasing.
“We expect the flu season to start a little earlier this year and be a bit more severe in terms of the number of cases we’ve seen in the past,” Sri says.
Protection of good health
That’s why flu shots, as well as updated COVID-19 boosters and other seasonal vaccines, are critical to good health.
“Every year, millions of people get sick with the flu. Hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized; tens of thousands of people are dying,” says Sri. “Getting a flu shot is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family. It has been shown to reduce flu-related illness and the risk of serious complications from the flu.”
He says an annual flu shot is recommended for most people 6 months of age and older, especially essential workers, people age 65 and older, people with compromised immune systems and chronic illnesses.
Remember that the flu vaccine takes about two weeks to build immunity in the body, Sri adds. “Getting vaccinated early in the fall, ideally by the end of October, will ensure you’re protected when flu season starts.”
COVID-19 boosters and additional vaccines
In hopes of similarly preventing a fall surge in COVID-19 cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends bivalent vaccine boosters that also target the new omicron subvariants. But success in reducing the number of COVID-19 cases this fall and winter will depend on how many people get vaccinated.
While the flu shot does not protect you from COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccine does not protect you from the flu, it is easy and recommended to get both. “Patients can receive a vaccine against COVID-19 and a vaccine against influenza at the same time. At CVS Pharmacy, patients can schedule both vaccines at the same appointment,” says Sri.
Pfizer-BioNTech’s updated COVID-19 booster is currently approved for people age 12 and older, while Moderna is approved for people age 18 and older, according to the CDC. Local CVS pharmacists or your doctor can also help you determine eligibility, Sri says.
Linda Molaka, manager of CVS Pharmacy® in Pembroke Pines, Florida, encourages her eligible patients to get a boost. “It’s always good to have the most protection we can have — that’s what vaccines are for, to help prevent hospitalization or serious complications,” she says.
She can also provide other vaccinations—pneumonia, shingles, HPV, meningitis—and help clients determine which ones they may need. “Pharmacists know very well which patients need certain vaccines,” she says. “So I’m definitely one of your great resources.”
Through the CVS Health Dashboard, patients can also track their immunizations, which can be especially helpful for younger Americans. A new national Harris Poll commissioned by CVS Health shows that young Americans are losing knowledge about their vaccinations: Nearly 1 in 3 Gen Zs and young millennials say they don’t know when they need to get their vaccinations and don’t know where to get them find their vaccination records.
Make vaccinations convenient
To help people stay up to date, CVS Pharmacy and MinuteClinic® offer flu shots, COVID-19 and booster shots, and many other shots every day, including evenings and weekends.
“Eighty-five percent of people live within 10 miles of a CVS pharmacy, and we have more than 9,000 locations nationwide, so it’s definitely more convenient than a typical 9-to-5 doctor’s office,” says Linda. “We’re all here — MinuteClinic providers, CVS pharmacists — every day, every night, every weekend for our community.”
Recent Harris Poll data also shows that more than half of parents of children under the age of 6 find the entire vaccination process stressful. That’s why CVS Health allows patients to schedule vaccinations on CVS.com, through the CVS app or by visiting any MinuteClinic.
Families can also sign up for group vaccinations of up to four people online.
“We try to make it as convenient as possible,” says Sri. “Our digital scheduler offers flexibility and the ability to schedule multiple patients at the same time so families or groups can vaccinate together.”
So far, the new group meetings have been a hit, says Linda. “Parents really like it because they’re setting an example for the kids — look, mom and dad will get it, too,” she says. “Everyone comes in and everyone comes out happy. It’s much easier.”
Luann, who scheduled her family’s flu shots online, agrees. “It is very convenient to be able to gather the whole family there and get vaccinated at the same time, instead of taking the children separately to the doctor.”