After nearly three years of nearly nonstop talking about viruses and vaccinations, you might be ready to tune out.
That would be a mistake, health experts say.
A severe flu season ahead?
Amid warning signs of a potentially severe flu season ahead, those experts worry “vaccine fatigue” will keep people from getting their flu shot – and with it, a simple, safe way to protect themselves from life-threatening conditions, including heart attacks and strokes.
Australia, where winter is wrapping up, often serves as a crystal ball for influenza in the United States, and the signs are not good, says Dr. Martha Gulati, director of cardiovascular disease prevention in the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles.
“The Southern Hemisphere had a bad flu season, and it came early,” says Gulati, who co-wrote a 2021 review of research on the flu vaccine in people with cardiovascular disease in the Journal of the American Heart Association. “So we should be concerned that the exact same thing is going to happen here. That’s why I’m specifically encouraging people to get their flu shot as early as possible.”
September and October are indeed an ideal time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC, American Heart Association and other health organizations advise annual vaccination for everyone six months of age and older, with rare exceptions.
But even before the pandemic, many people in the U.S. ignored such advice. In 2018-19, the last flu season unaffected by COVID-19, only about 63% of children and 45% of adults were vaccinated, according to the CDC.
A tough sell, with many benefits
The root of the problem is misinformation about vaccine safety, which also predates COVID-19, says Amelia Boehme, an assistant professor of epidemiology in the division of neurology clinical outcomes research and population sciences at Columbia University in New York City. She says politicization of the COVID-19 vaccines amplified those unfounded fears.
That has led to more discussion, which promotes more fatigue, she shares. “People are tired of hearing about how it’s safe. People are tired about hearing about studies on COVID outcomes.”
She’s heard people and read studies suggesting that fatigue about vaccines also stems from