CDC urges flu shots ahead of potentially severe season

After more than two years of a pandemic and multiple COVID-19 shots and boosters, many of us are weary of vaccines. However, federal and New York-area health experts say getting a flu shot this year may be more important than ever.  

Doctors are warning that the U.S. will be hit hard by influenza. The main indicator is that a nasty flu season just ended in Australia. In fact, Australia just experienced its worst flu season in five years. What happens in the Southern Hemisphere winters often foreshadows what Northern Hemisphere countries can expect. 

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is urging people six months old and older to get a flu shot by Halloween at the latest.

"Over the past two years, we've seen some worrisome drops in flu vaccination coverage, especially in some groups of people who are at the highest risk of developing serious flu illness," Walensky said. 

This year, people 65 and older are also being told to ask their doctor about a new extra-strength type of flu vaccine. 

Dr. Purvi Parikh, a specialist in infectious diseases, said it is so important that seniors get this special flu shot.

"Those over 65 have a different flu shot compared to the rest of the population — it's more immunogenic, meaning it gives a better immune response," Parikh said. "Because when you are 65 and older, you tend to have less robust of an immune system so you may not respond as strongly to vaccines as those who are under 65."

While you can get a flu shot at any time this season, public health officials suggest most of us get the shot by the end of October. Full protection sets in about two weeks after vaccination.