LANCASTER, Pa. (Erie News Now) – According to state health officials, flu season is officially underway. Tuesday, Acting Health Secretary Dr. Denise Johnson joined medical professionals to express the importance of getting the flu vaccine this season. Pennsylvania’s top medical official says this year’s flu season could be worse than last year’s.
“This flu season has the potential to be severe, so we are encouraging Pennsylvanians to get their flu shot and COVID-19 booster together to keep our communities safe,” said Dr. Johnson.
Health officials say flu shots are now available and recommended for everyone six-months of age and older. They also recommend receiving a bivalent, or updated COVID-19 booster if they are due.
“Influenza is serious and can be deadly, which is why it is important that Pennsylvanians receive their flu vaccine. The flu shot is the best way to protect yourself against influenza, but I also encourage people to take other preventive measures to protect themselves from the spread of influenza. This is also an opportunity to continue the work of mitigating COVID-19 by receiving the new COVID-19 vaccine,” Dr. Johnson added.
Last year, hospitals and health facilities struggled with staffing shortages and a high number of COVID and flu hospitalizations. Dr. Johnson encourages everyone who is eligible to receive both vaccines in order to reduce the burden on hospitals and to ensure care is prioritized for patients in need of critical care.
“Last year, at the end of the year, we saw a lot of hospitalizations with COVID, but also with flu and other illnesses and our hospitals were at capacity,” said Dr. Johnson. “To keep our hospitals functioning and able to care for people with heart attack or stroke, we want to make sure that everyone who can prevent getting into the hospital take the measures that they need to do that,” Dr. Johnson added.
According to the FDA, the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent, is authorized for use as a single booster dose in individuals 18 years of age and older. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent, is authorized for use as a single booster dose in individuals 12 years of age and older. The updated boosters provide protection against the original virus strain as well as the omicron variant, and its subvariants.
According to the CDC, it is safe to receive the updated booster and flu vaccine at the same time. Dr. Johnson says they are both available at physicians’ offices, pharmacies and other local health clinics.
“The flu shot and COVID-19 bivalent booster are both available by visiting your doctor’s office, pharmacy, grocery store, local walk-in clinic or state health center by appointment,” said Dr. Johnson. The vaccination process is quick, easy and helps protect yourself and anyone you may encounter this flu season, which is just beginning. We recommend getting vaccinated before the end of October,” she added.