After more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the flu is back, and at the Rutland Regional Medical Center, Dr. Rick Hildebrant is among those warning people to prepare for a potentially rough season.

Health experts point to data in Australia where it’s winter, and the flu is the worst it has been in five years. It could be a predictor of what could be seen in the U.S.

“People should get the flu shot as soon as it is available,” said Dr. Hildebrant. “The experts down there say there is a variety of reasons as to why that happened, one of them however was that it hit early, and that is a reason for some concern, so if you have a early on set and a long season that is a large number of cases and a lot of people that can potentially be exposed.”

He notes that the flu vaccine will not cause you to get the flu. “What it really does is prevents you from getting seriously ill from the flu people who get flu vaccinations are far less likely to die or end up in the ICU on a ventilator because of the flu.”

In a normal season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say children younger than 2 and adults over 65 are considered at highest risk for flu complications. The Vermont Health Department says back to school time is the perfect time to think about scheduling a flu shot and other vaccines.  

“Especially the little kids that are in childcare or in school or interacting with other adults or children, they got their hands in everything,” said Monica Ogleby, Immunization Program Manager for the Department of Health. Ogleby says to get your flu shot as soon as it’s available, but for some kids it can be based on timing.

“Little kids that are six months old if they turn six months old in February and it’s their first opportunity to get vaccinated for the flu. I think it’s still a great opportunity to get vaccinated and to have that conversation with their pediatric health care provider.”

This fall, the state will offer flu vaccines at walk-in clinics so you can get your COVID shot at the same time.