Time for COVID-19 Boosters and Seasonal Flu Shots
Columnist Ed Tobias prepares for a potentially severe flu season
It’s the time of the season.
Every year around this time, I get a seasonal flu shot. I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember, certainly all of my adult life. But this year is a little different.
There are now three flu vaccines preferentially recommended for people 65 years and older (that’s me). There’s also a relatively new COVID-19 booster that targets the latest strains of that virus. I got both shots — seasonal in the right arm and COVID-19 in the left — about a week ago.
What’s new about the vaccines?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent in November 2019 to provide protection against four flu strains. It has been updated to include new strains for the upcoming 2022-2023 flu season. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it contains four times the antigen as standard flu vaccines. The other two vaccines preferentially recommended for seniors are the Flublok Quadrivalent recombinant flu vaccine and the Fluad Quadrivalent adjuvanted flu vaccine. A number of other flu vaccines are available for people of all ages, though none are preferentially recommended for those younger than 65.
The updated COVID-19 boosters, approved by the FDA in August and October, are formulated to better protect against the omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, which are much more transmissible than earlier variants. They can also help to restore protection that may have waned against earlier strains.
Now is the time to get both vaccines
The seasonal flu is already off and running. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told NBC News last week that flu activity is already ramping up across the country, especially in the Southeast and south-central U.S. This is about two months earlier than usual, which Walensky thinks may be due to a drop in the number of people who received the flu vaccination last year.
Meanwhile, in the Pacific Northwest, health officials are concerned they may see a COVID-19 surge this fall and winter. The White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator recommends people get a booster by Halloween.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society recommends both a yearly seasonal flu vaccine and a COVID-19 vaccine for most people with multiple sclerosis (MS). But the American Academy of Neurology recommends against using any live vaccine, such as the FluMist nasal spray, for those taking a disease-modifying therapy (DMT).
There have been concerns that the COVID-19 vaccines may not be as effective for people with MS who are being treated with a DMT that attacks B-cells, such as Ocrevus (ocrelizumab). But a study published in August found that the vaccines are still worthwhile for people with MS. They appear to strongly activate other parts of the immune system that are helpful in fighting the virus.
My vaccine experiences have been good
I’ve never had a bad reaction to a seasonal flu shot. I have occasionally experienced some tenderness at the injection site. This year, I didn’t even have that.
Side effects from my COVID-19 vaccines have been minimal. This year, as was the case after my second shot back in March 2021, I was hit with increased fatigue for a day and my arm was a bit sore. That was it. These reactions appear similar to those reported by other people with MS.
To me, such side effects seem to be a small price to pay for protection against these two illnesses, either of which could make someone seriously ill. I believe that by being vaccinated I’m also helping to keep others from becoming infected with these viruses. I hope you feel the same way.
You’re invited to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.