As California prepares for a tough flu season, doctors recommend injections – with or without a COVID booster

This year, getting vaccinated against the flu is more important than ever, say infectious disease experts in the Bay Area. More than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic have created conditions – including lower flu vaccination rates and less natural immunity than in the pre-pandemic period – that could make the coming flu season one of the worst in recent years.

Flu vaccination rates in California and nationwide fell during the 2020-2021 flu season compared to 2019-2020, which experts attribute in part to the COVID blockade or to the fact that many people delay non-emergency medical visits, including some vaccinations. Meanwhile, widespread COVID masking, which was mandatory in most Bay Area public spaces in 2020 and for most of 2021, has reduced the overall level of flu transmission – meaning fewer people now have some natural immunity.

“We haven’t had much flu in the last few years,” said Dr. Jeffrey Silvers, medical director of pharmacy and infection control at Sutter Health. “We had some last season, but we can predict that there is a real possibility that we may have a significant flu season this year and that it may be larger than what we are used to.”

Message to the Silvers home: “People should get vaccinated this year. This is very important, and I would say that preparation is more important than in the past few years.

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