- Experts say this year’s flu season has already been a strange one.
For more on times and dates click here.
Rio Rancho times and days:
9 AM – 2 PM 9 yrs + UNM Sandoval Regional Medical
3001 Broadmoor Blvd. NE,
9 AM – 2 PM 6 mo.+ UNM Health Family Health Grande
1790 Grande Blvd. SE,
“Flu season used to have patterns,” said University of New Mexico Hospital epidemiologist Meghan Brett, MD, “but it’s been severely disrupted in the past two and a half years.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 mitigation measures such as wearing face masks, staying home, hand washing, school closures and reduced travel likely contributed to the decline in 2020-2021 flu incidence, hospitalizations and deaths.
This year, after a long hiatus, the flu is coming back.
That’s why UNM Health is holding several free flu shot clinics for people 6 months and older in most locations (and 18 years and older in others). Notably, the flu vaccine designed specifically for people 65 years and older will not be available at any of these clinics.
“It’s always a good idea to get your flu shot in the fall,” Brett said. “Once you get the vaccine, it takes about two weeks for your immune system to develop an immune response.”
UNM Health is holding walk-in and drive-through clinics throughout the cities of Albuquerque and Rio Rancho in order to make the flu vaccine widely accessible.
“Having a really low barrier to finding a vaccine is incredibly important, so the more opportunities the better,” Brett said. “Besides what we’re offering, people can get the flu vaccine at their provider’s offices.”
Brett added that during a typical pre-pandemic year, she would expect to see flu numbers take off in December and January and begin to peter out in February. That wasn’t the case earlier this year. According to a report from TriCore Reference Laboratories, the 2021-2022 flu season peaked in April and tapered off in July 2022.
“That’s highly unusual for flu. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before,” Brett said. “I think it was due to waning immunity from last year’s flu vaccine, and the mask mandate going away.”
Because of the already strange data coming out from the number of flu infections earlier this year, Brett said it’s impossible to predict what this upcoming flu season will bring.
“When it comes to respiratory viruses, with COVID-19 still circulating and all our behaviors and patterns changing, all bets are off in terms of the timing of the seasons,” she said.
In addition to getting vaccinated, Brett said wearing a face mask and good hand hygiene can help prevent the spread of the flu and COVID-19 this flu season.