PITTSBURGH — University of Pittsburgh professor Dr. Richard Zimmerman has been studying the flu vaccine and the flu season for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a long time.
“We’ve never had a year like this,” said Zimmerman in a recent interview. “Unless we’re under a lockdown-type situation, we’re going to have a worse flu year.”
He says people didn’t build up immunity last year because there wasn’t a flu season, and he’s not sure how many people will get a flu shot this year.
We asked him if that’s because of COVID vaccine hesitancy.
“I think there are some other people who are feeling vaccine fatigue. They’ve heard so much about the vaccines,” said Zimmerman. “They say ‘I’m not going to bother to get the influenza vaccine and we didn’t have any flu last year, so why should I need it?’”
“Both flu and COVID can be deadly. We have safe and effective vaccines that can protect people,” said Dr. Alfred L’Altrelli with UPMC’s pharmacy department, who spreads that message as often as he can.
This year, UPMC will be offering the flu vaccine at some of the same sites that offer COVID vaccines.
L’Altrelli says it is safe to get the COVID and flu shots at the same time.
He said the side effects are typically the same if you get the vaccines together or separately, but he does have a suggestion.
“Some people that experience side effects of a COVID vaccine and experience side effects from the flu vaccine, traditionally, they might want to wait that 14 days between shots so that they can have time to recover,” said L’Altrelli.
L’Altrelli and Zimmerman urge you to get a flu shot early, because flu season could come earlier this season and could last longer.