What to know about flu shots and COVID-19 boosters, vaccines

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If you’ve heard the term “twindemic,” you likely know it means the conversion of the unrelenting COVID-19 pandemic and a potentially rough flu season.

With flu season fast approaching on top of a surge in COVID-19 cases and new booster shots for people older than 65 or otherwise health compromised, people are navigating a labyrinth of advice on when to get their flu shots and COVID-19 vaccines, including booster doses.

Last year, flu was virtually non-existent as the pandemic forced most people to stay home, socially distance, wear masks in public and frequently wash their hands. 

Now, as people return to near normal life — Larimer County’s new mask mandate not withstanding — flu season is fast approaching. And, whether the twindemic materializes here depends largely on how much worse the current wave of delta variant COVID-19 infections get and what happens with the 2021-22 flu season, according to UCHealth. 

►Larimer County’s indoor mask mandate begins Wednesday. Here’s what you need to know.

The collision could exacerbate an already trying time for health care providers. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment and both UCHealth and Banner Health have urged everyone to get a flu shot by the end of October, preferably. And, they all say it’s OK to get the first, second or booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu shot simultaneously.  

Shots given on the same day are typically administered in different arms, according to UCHealth. 

When do I need to get my flu shot by?

The health department recommends getting a flu shot by the end of October, but encourages people to get a flu shot any time even if it’s after October.

Flu season runs through May, so it’s not too late to get a shot even if it’s in November or December, said Kori Wilford, spokesperson for the county health department.

“In a typical year we see around 200 hospitalizations due to influenza over the course of the flu season — September through May — and that would overburden our hospitals even more,” Wilford said.

The health department anticipates that more mask-wearing will help slow the transmission of the flu and other respiratory infections as it did last year, she said. “However, last year we also had many children in remote learning and people working from home, capacity restrictions for businesses and less movement, such as travel and dining out, than we do now.” 

Where can I get my flu and COVID-19 shots?

UCHealth’s COVID-19 vaccine clinics are not offering flu shots at this time, so patients may have to make two different appointments for both shots, Tracer said.

Check with local pharmacies and your doctor’s office for more information on what shots are available at those locations.

Note: Most locations are only providing booster doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and are awaiting formal guidance from the CDC before proceeding with Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster shots. UCHealth has been offering Moderna booster doses, and some locations have offered third doses of Moderna to those who are immunocompromised (which is different than a regular booster dose).

With CDC recommendation, COVID-19 boosters are reaching more people. Here’s how to get one

Who should get COVID-19 booster shots? 

The CDC recommends COVID-19 booster shots for all adults age 65 and older and authorizes boosters for those 18 and older who live or work in high-risk settings like homeless shelters or prisons as well as those at high risk for severe illness if they get COVID-19.

When should I get a COVID-19booster shot?

The recommended timing is at least six months after your first vaccine. 

How much do COVID-19 booster doses cost?

Like the initial COVID-19 vaccine, the booster doses are free. 

Want to be fully vaccinated for the holidays? You haven’t missed your chance

A Pfizer vaccine is administered during a vaccination clinic at the Longs Peak Student Center at Front Range Community College in Fort Collins on Aug. 25.

Pat Ferrier is a senior reporter covering business, health care and growth issues in Northern Colorado. Contact her at patferrier@coloradoan.com. Please support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a subscription today.