While it's not possible to say with certainty what will happen this fall and winter, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes it's likely that flu viruses and SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, will both be spreading. In this context, getting a flu vaccine will be more important than ever. Vaccinating essential workers, including health care staff, is highly recommended.
This season’s flu vaccines were updated to better match viruses expecting to circulate in the United States. Influenza and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. Because some of the symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, meaning testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.
The CDC has developed a single test that will check for A and B type seasonal flu viruses and SARS CoV-2, but this new test will primarily be used to supplement and streamline surveillance for the flu and COVID-19 in public health laboratories. It won't replace existing tests being used in commercial labs, hospitals, clinics and other health care settings.
The CDC is increasing the availability of vaccines, including purchasing an additional 2 million pediatric flu vaccines and 9.3 million doses of adult flu vaccines.
Generally, annual influenza vaccinations are recommended for everyone 6 months and older. September and October are optimal months for flu vaccinations to ensure protection throughout the season.
Vaccines should be postponed for people suspected of confirmed COVID-19 regardless of whether they have symptoms until they have met the criteria to discontinue their isolation.
The CDC has developed guidelines for administering vaccines at pharmacies, temporary off-site or satellite clinics, and large-scale influenza clinics. Other approaches include drive-thru fixed sites, curbside clinics, mobile outreach units and home visits.
If you'd like more information, please visit the CDC's Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.