Got your COVID vaccine? Good. Now get ready for your flu shot

Flu and COVID vaccines don't overlap in the protection they provide

Flu season is right around the corner, and health experts say it won’t be as easy on us as last year.

“I think last flu season was a non-event because our COVID precautions were extremely high. This season, it won’t be as high, there’s going to be more people interacting outside their households because they’ve been immunized (against COVID-19),” Dr. Colin Lee, Associate Medical Officer with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, told Barrie 360. “Although we are all wearing masks, we’re just going to be in closer contact with more people. And it will allow the flu virus a better chance to get from one person to the next.”

Dr. Lee says that’s all the more reason to get your flu shot this year. “I think the flu shot is definitely recommended. I think this flu season is going to be a little bit different from the last flu season.”

While the vast majority of Simcoe-Muskoka residents have gotten both COVID-19 vaccine doses, Lee says that won’t protect you from the flu. “Honestly, you want the best protection against these two viruses, and they don’t overlap in terms of the protection. And we know, season to season, that the flu virus can, unfortunately, be quite devastating to the young and the old. So, you do need the flu shot every year,” he said. “As for the COVID vaccine, obviously, we know that it is actually more contagious than the flu. And you need that too. So, you really need both to enjoy a flu-free and then a COVID-free winter.”

Even though most residents have already gotten their COVID vaccine, Dr. Lee suggests that those who haven’t rolled up their sleeve wait a bit afterwards, before getting the flu shot. “The recommendation in general for the COVID vaccine and other vaccines is to try to keep it two to four weeks apart, just to make sure that we don’t mix up any side effects from one to the other.”

Lee says pharmaceutical companies like Moderna are already looking at ways of delivering seasonal COVID and flu vaccines in one dose. “I would hope that we would have a combination vaccine,” he commented. “Of course, that would just make things a lot easier.”

You might have already gotten a notification from your local pharmacy or healthcare provider to get on a waitlist for flu vaccines this year, while doses are not expected to arrive in Ontario until mid-October.