COVID-19 boosters, flu shots encouraged

The Best Times Digital Edition

Oct. 26, 2021

By Jennifer Dunlay

The flu activity this year may be high as businesses and schools open to full capacity and people begin to gather indoors during the colder months. That’s why it’s important for older adults who are more vulnerable to get both a flu shot and a COVID-19 vaccine or booster dose this fall. Both vaccines can be given safely at the same time.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says flu activity last year was lower than any previous influenza season since 1997, the first season for which data are publicly available. The CDC predicts that this number will increase as mitigation measures, like stay-at-home orders and mask mandates, are relaxed.

“We cannot let our guard down with flu,” says Sanmi Areola, director of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.

“Flu is still out there and tends to ramp up between the holidays and the end of February. It’s important that everyone who is eligible get vaccinated now for both flu and COVID-19 so you’re protected.”

Adults age 65 and older are at a higher risk of developing serious complications from flu and COVID-19, compared with young, healthy adults as they are more likely to have chronic medical conditions (diabetes, asthma, congestive heart failure) which put them at an increased risk of serious illness, hospitalization and death.

This year’s flu vaccine protects against four different flu viruses - two influenza A and two influenza B viruses that research indicates will be most common this season. While some people who get vaccinated may still get sick, flu vaccination has been shown to reduce severity of illness and the burden on the health care system.

You should also get the COVID-19 vaccine. Adults age 65 and older who have completed the Pfizer two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series six or more months ago are eligible for a booster dose.

Areola says older adults should get a booster shot when they are eligible as studies show that after getting vaccinated against COVID-19, protection against the virus may decrease over time and be less able to protect against the delta variant. Booster doses of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are not approved at this time, but health officials expect them to be approved soon.

JCDHE urges older adults to visit their doctor’s office, a pharmacy or the health department for a seasonal flu shot and a COVID-19 vaccine or booster. When you arrive, take precautions such as wearing a mask, keeping distance from those you don’t live with and washing or sanitizing your hands often.

Flu shots are available at JCDHE’s walk-in immunization clinic located 11875 S. Sunset Drive in Olathe, Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. 
to noon.

Flu vaccines are covered by Medicare Part B and by most Medicare Advantage plans with no copay. The high dose and seasonal flu shots are covered by most health insurance plans with no copays for adults who are not on Medicare. Those without insurance will pay $40 for the seasonal flu shot or $80 for the Flublok® Quadrivalent vaccine or the Fluzone® High-Dose vaccine.

For more information about flu vaccines and JCDHE’s clinic hours, call 913-826-1261 or visit

Jennifer Dunlay is risk communicator at the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.