SSM Health: Flu shot more important than ever this year

MADISON, Wis. — Last year Wisconsin saw a historically low flu season, driven by a combination of staying at home, masking, and virtual schooling. This year, as schools return to in-person learning, and more folks gather, SSM Health Physician David Ottenbaker is telling families to prioritize the flu shot, especially while awaiting the approval of a COVID vaccine for those under 12.

“This year especially, where we had a pretty mild flu season last year, we’re predicting a pretty vigorous season this year,” says Ottenbaker, “and so it is important for us not to get out of that sequence. Especially has the children have gotten back into school, we certainly expect a more vigorous flu season. We’re already seeing a lot of respiratory syncytial virus in the community, so it’s very important that all of the children, as well as adults, get their flu vaccine. Remember that many of the symptoms of COVID and flu are very similar, so it will help us if we can have a milder flu season this year to really delineate the illnesses and really focus still on COVID as we go forward.”

Ottenbaker understands that some kids – and adults – have high anxiety when it comes to getting shots, and says there are a few other avenues you can use. First, ask your provider if the flu mist is available this year. If not, and a shot is required, he says having a conversation to demystify the process can prove helpful.

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