Flu shots are available now and are more important than ever
As flu season continues, community members are encouraged to get their flu vaccine when it becomes available. (Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jermaine Ayers) VIEW ORIGINAL

WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii — It's time to get your influenza shot.

Flu season runs from October through May, typically peaking from December-February.

Similar to last year, this year’s flu season poses a unique risk as COVID-19 outbreaks continue around the world. It is possible to catch the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously.

The CDC recommended everyone get a flu shot by the end of October, but getting the vaccine can still offer protection even if you get it later in the fall or early winter.

All Soldiers are required to get an annual flu shot. For all dependents, shots are available at military medical treatment facilities and at military installations.

Flu Shot Availability

Flu shots are currently available nationwide commercially and at military treatment facilities without shortages.

The 25th Infantry Division is scheduling mass vaccination events for its Soldiers. All other Soldiers can get their flu vaccine as a walk-in at Conroy Bowl (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-10 a.m.), the Troop Immunization Clinic at Desmond T. Doss Health Clinic (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m.), or with an appointment at Tripler Army Medical Center’s Family Medicine and Internal Medicine clinics.

All other Tricare beneficiaries can get a flu vaccine from the clinic they’re enrolled at or from a retail network pharmacy. Tricare beneficiaries can call 1-888-683-2778 to schedule an appointment at their medical treatment facility.

There are additional walk-in opportunities available Wednesdays, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., at the Schofield Barracks Main Exchange, and Fridays from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. at Family Immunizations at Desmond T. Doss Health Clinic. Both are for non-active duty beneficiaries six months or older.

COVID-19 Makes Getting Flu Shots Doubly Important

This year, getting vaccinated against the flu is doubly important because of COVID-19 and the dominance of the highly contagious Delta variant.

Flu vaccines do not prevent COVID-19, but they will reduce the burden of flu illnesses and hospitalizations on the health care system and conserve scarce medical resources for the care of people with COVID-19.

Getting the flu vaccine not only lowers your risk of getting sick, but also lessens the chance of having a severe case.

Additionally, the flu vaccine lowers the chance of spreading the virus to other people, especially those who may not be able to get the vaccine due to age or compromised immune systems or allergies to the vaccine.

Vaccinate Children and At-Risk Populations as Soon as Possible

"One major item to consider is that on the spectrum of common childhood illness, flu is more dangerous than the cold," said Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Christopher Ellison, deputy director of operations, Defense Health Agency Immunization Healthcare Division.

"Kids under five and particularly those less than two years old are at a higher risk of having flu-related complications like pneumonia or dehydration that could require hospitalization or worse. Flu vaccine is the best way to prevent this," Ellison said.

According to the CDC, children can get vaccinated as soon as vaccine becomes available. Some children need two doses. For those children, the CDC recommends to get the first dose as soon as a vaccine is available because the second needs to be given at least 4 weeks after the first.

Some other people who are at higher risk of infection include those who are 65 and older, those with asthma, heart disease, diabetes, suppressed immune systems, as well as other medical conditions.

According to the CDC, those people who have suspected or confirmed COVID-19, whether or not they have symptoms, should wait until they have met the criteria to discontinue isolation before getting a flu shot.