How will last year's mild flu season affect this year's cases? Learn how to plan and prepare.

With the risk of COVID-19 and flu circulating at the same time, people may be more willing to get a flu vaccine this year. Having more vaccinated people in the community can help reduce the spread of the flu virus. On the other hand, because there was less flu last year, there's also a possibility that less people will choose to get vaccinated. This could lead to a challenging flu season. 

The CDC recommends the flu vaccine for everyone ages 6 months and older. It's especially critical for your family to get vaccinated if someone in your home has a high risk of a life-threatening flu complications.

Flu vaccines and COVID-19 vaccines can be given at the same time per CDC guidelines. The COVID-19 vaccine is currently approved for anyone 12 years and older. 

We asked Preeti Sharma, M.D., and Tanya Martinez, M.D., pulmonologists at Children's Health℠ and Associate Professors at UT Southwestern, to weigh in with their predictions for this year's flu season and how your family can prepare.

When does flu season 2021-2022 start?

Although the influenza virus can circulate year-round, cases typically start to appear in October and last until May. Flu season tends to peak between December and March.

However, because fewer people got the flu last year, the population has less immunity to the virus. This lack of immunity could possibly cause flu season 2021-2022 to start earlier.

What can we expect for this year's flu season?

In normal years, flu seasons can be challenging to predict. Add a pandemic, and predictions get even trickier.

"Last year's flu season was unique, and it's difficult to know exactly how that will affect this year's numbers," says Dr. Martinez. "With the COVID‑19 Delta variant now circulating, many people may still take precautions such as wearing a mask during flu season, which can help reduce cases. But less exposure to the flu last year may also mean reduced immunity this year. This could increase the potential for a bad flu season, depending on other prevention strategies."

Can you get both the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu shot? What about the effectiveness of this year's flu vaccine? 

Learn more about those questions and more.