AUSTIN (KXAN) — As we enter fall, Austin Public Health (APH) said Monday it wants families to update their seasonal flu shots and COVID-19 vaccines.
NBC News reported in August the flu is surging in Australia for the first time since the pandemic began.
According to NBC, flu season in Australia can be an indication of what’s to come in the U.S.
“Now is not the time to let our guard down. Everyone, especially children and seniors, need flu protection,” said Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes in Monday’s release. “This time last year we were fighting the COVID-19 delta variant, and we protected our most vulnerable from COVID-19 and flu with a combination of masking and vaccine. Let’s do it again.”
Babies and young children have been eligible for COVID-19 vaccines since late June. According to Monday’s APH release:
- 44 pediatric hospitalizations (seven ICU admissions, one on a breathing machine) in the last month
- Fewer than 2,500 children 6 months to 4 years are fully vaccinated in Travis County.
- Half of children admitted to hospitals for treatment were unvaccinated and do NOT have any underlying medical condition.
- Case numbers at our area schools are rising and may significantly increase if illness spreads from sick students to their families.
The APH said the first year of the pandemic saw historically low levels of influenza circulation.
Data from the Texas Health and Human Services show infections increased during the 2021-22 season, although flu-related deaths and hospitalizations remained low.
Authorities recommend seasonal flu vaccines for everyone 6 months and older.
APH said ideally, flu shots should be administered during September and October, although they can still help prevent serious illness from influenza when administered beyond this time period.
Flu most commonly peaks in February and significant activity can continue into May.
Flu shots can be administered at the same time as COVID-19 vaccines. The CDC just authorized new COVID-19 booster doses, and APH has ordered supply. The APH said you can expect more details on those doses soon.
The seasonal flu vaccine protects against influenza viruses research suggests may be more common during the upcoming season.
Influenza A was the most common circulating strain last season in Travis County, according to APH. Some people who get flu shots may still get sick, but studies show the overall severity of illness is likely reduced by vaccinations.
“As a community, we realize now more than ever, how health impacts our quality of life – our ability to work, play, and spend time with loved ones. Getting your flu shots is an easy way to keep your family safe and on track,” said Austin Public Health Director Adrienne Sturrup. “We don’t have to get sidelined by another virus, especially one we’ve been routinely vaccinating against for decades.”
The composition of flu vaccines varies each season, because there are many different flu viruses. The recommendations for the 2022-23 season include two updates compared with last season’s recommended vaccines: the influenza A (H3N2) and the influenza B (Victoria lineage) vaccine virus components.
Where to find vaccine providers
Visit Vaccines.gov to find flu and COVID-19 vaccine providers near you.
Free COVID-19 tests
The federal government suspended its free mail-order test kit program to maintain the national stockpile on Friday.
Free at-home test kits and PCR testing are still available at APH’s Metz Elementary testing site (84 Robert T. Martinez Jr. St.).
Where to get free N-95 respirators
Use the CDC’s mask-locator tool to find pharmacies near you that provide free masks (N95 respirators). It does not show current inventories, so check with the location for availability.