Health experts recommend flu shot as uncertainty looms for flu season

As the COVID-19 delta variant continues to spread, health officials are still urging everyone to get vaccinated against the virus and to get their annual flu shot.

Health officials say it’s hard to predict how fast or how wide this season’s flu virus will spread.

"The big thing about flu is that we always predict what's going to happen next based on what happens the previous season, and last year, we really didn't have a flu season," said Ann Philbrick, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Pharmacy. "And that's because people were staying home. They were socially distancing, they were masking for COVID. So really, there's not a lot… we don't know what to expect."

Philbrick says epidemiologists have a strong indication of what might be the circulating flu virus this year. However, since last year’s nearly non-existent flu season, there is a chance the new vaccine is mismatched to the virus. She says people should still get the shot.

"Even if the virus is mismatched to the vaccine, the vaccine will still provide some protection against influenza," said Philbrick. "So even if you do happen to get the flu because of that mismatch, I think it's going to help prevent a severe case of the flu."

The COVID-19 vaccine will not fill the gap. It only protects against the coronavirus. Influenza needs a separate shot.

Philbrick also says the COVID-19 vaccine will not interfere with the flu vaccine.

"No, it will not," she said. "I think when the vaccine first came out, out of an abundance of caution, we were not administering other vaccines at the same time as that COVID vaccine. But really, science has shown that there's no interaction between the vaccine and any vaccine. So that includes influenza."

She says you can even get your COVID-19 shot and your flu shot at the same time if you want. Now is the time to start getting your flu shot as experts expect the flu season to peak in January through March.