RALEIGH N.C. (WNCN) – Demand for flu shots went up last year despite record low flu cases.
Doctors and manufacturers are hoping that is the case again this year.
But COVID-19 booster shots may come at the same time as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is preparing to expand the availability of boosters this fall pending an FDA recommendation.
Dr. Leroy Darkes with UNC Health Internal medicine, said people should get their flu shot as early as possible and for most, that will mean a natural time gap between getting the flu shot now and a COVID booster later this fall once it’s approved for the general population.
“Get your flu shot whenever you can get one,” Darkes said. “Then you can layer your booster on top of that at any time.”
But for those who want to get the booster and flu shot at the same time, the Centers for Disease Control say “You can get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines at the same visit. You no longer need to wait 14 days between vaccinations.”
“I think we have enough experience and confidence that, if need be, we can just like we do with other vaccinations, one in one arm and one in the other arm,” Darkes said.
While the number of flu cases plummeted last year due in part to COVID-19 precautions like social distancing and wearing masks, the demand for flu shots increased.
Dave Sehgal, executive director of manufacturing for flu shot maker Seqirus, based in Holly Springs, said the company is pumping out 60 million flu vaccines this year.
“Looking at last year’s demand it was 20 percent higher than before. We are actually forecasted to be around the same demand values now,” Sehgal said. “The more people we can immunize against flu, the more folks that can stay out of the healthcare system which allows precious resources to be dedicated to covid patients which we desperately need right now.”
The COVID-19 booster shot is only recommended for immunocompromised people currently.