Peak flu season in the United States is generally November to February, and before the holiday season begins, experts advise getting your flu vaccination. This year, it may be more important than ever.
Typically about 30,000 people die of influenza each flu season in the U.S., but the last two seasons have been light. In fact, in 2020, influenza activity was so low the CDC couldn’t even generate its annual burden estimate — a measure of the toll influenza takes on the country each year.
Experts say nonpharmaceutical interventions like masking and handwashing to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 also reduced transmission of common respiratory viruses like influenza.
Due to this recent light flu burden, most Americans don’t have much built-up immunity to the virus — a stark reality other countries are facing as well. Every year in late summer, American epidemiologists review recent influenza trends in Australia, since their flu season is just ending. Australia’s experience often forecasts what’s ahead for Americans, and unfortunately, Australia just experienced its worst flu season in five years.
Flu vaccination is arguably most important due to how it mitigates severe infection. A 2021 study showed that among adults hospitalized with flu, vaccinated patients had a 26% lower risk of intensive care unit admission and a 31% lower risk of death from flu compared with those who were unvaccinated.
The flu vaccine also helps the most vulnerable communities, including those with chronic medical conditions (e.g. heart disease, diabetes, asthma), those who are pregnant and children under five. Vaccines are also crucial for protecting older populations: According to the CDC, people 65 years and older accounted for 83% of flu deaths in the 2021-22 season.
Experts indicate that everyone 6 months or older should get the flu vaccine appropriate for their age, unless a health care provider indicates otherwise.
Vaccine information for AU students and employees
Student Health Services is available from 8-11 a.m. and 1-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday (with extended hours Tuesday and Thursday) for walk-in flu shots. For students with student health insurance, there is no cost; for those without student health insurance, the cost is $28.
Employee Health and Wellness is currently working with the University System of Georgia to schedule on-campus flu shot clinics. However, employees enrolled in a University System of Georgia health care plan can obtain their flu shot any time through a covered plan pharmacy, doctor’s office or retail clinic.