Scientists predict the flu season will have a strong comeback this year. With COVID still circulating, experts say we could be experiencing a perfect storm.
Before the pandemic, Kristal Andersen of Lancaster remembers her daughter got caught up in a bad flu season.
For Andersen's family, that was the first year they got the flu vaccine. Andersen says she thinks the shot is what kept her daughter out of the hospital.
With COVID in the backseat, doctors fear we're headed for the same ordeal, as influenza spikes in Australia.
Infectious Disease specialist Dr. David Bronstein with Kaiser Permanente Antelope Valley said COVID and the flu together will be a difficult for local hospitals.
"Especially since we haven't seen the flu for a few years here. Most of us haven't gotten sick with the flu. We're vulnerable again," Bronstein said. "Flu can spread to the lungs and cause pneumonia. I've seen the flu attack the heart. I've seen the flu go to the brain and cause encephalitis. I've seen the flu kill people."
At Kaiser Permanente, flu shots will be offered starting this week.
This season, there will be something new for those 65 and older. A high-dose flu vaccine will be available, giving the immune system an extra boost.
"Studies have now shown that these enhanced vaccines actually do give them increased protection to our most vulnerable population," Bronstein said.
Omicron-specific COVID boosters are expected to be available at the same time as the flu shot. Bronstein says it's OK to take them together.
He also says, based on what is being seen in Australia, flu shots for kids need to be a priority.
"We want to make sure that we're protecting not just ourselves but our children as well and really anybody that we care about," Bronstein said.
Andersen says she will be vaccinating her entire family again this year.
"A lot of people say, well, if I'm going to get the flu anyway, what's the point of getting the flu shot? Well, to make sure you don't get it really badly, right?" Andersen said. "Like, you want to make sure that you get if you get the flu that you're not going to get super sick from it."