Ahead of a possibly severe flu season, pharmacies' flu shot campaigns begin

The nation's largest retail pharmacy chains have all started offering flu shots ahead of what's predicted to be a more severe flu season compared to the last two years. 

Walgreens, CVS Health and Rite Aid have all recently begun administering flu shots. A severe flu season in the Southern Hemisphere is an early indicator of what may be in store for the U.S. this fall and winter. Australia, where flu season typically runs from April to September, is facing its worst flu season in five years, with infections spiking for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the U.S., preventive COVID-19 measures including widespread mask use and social distancing led to historically low flu rates, though many experts believe that could change this year. 

"Many have stopped masking," said Abinash Virk, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic. "For the large part, we will see the reemergence of influenza in the winter. In comparison, in 2020 winter, when we were all masking and social distancing, there was literally no influenza. But now that has all changed." 

In the U.S., flu season usually peaks between December and February, according to the CDC. The agency recommends people be vaccinated by the end of October. 

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