Family members who got the latest covid booster vaccine that targets the omicron strain all reported side effects of fever, chills, and feeling vaguely lousy for a period that lasted 24 to 48 hours. I had scheduled to get mine last Sunday and the day before I met a neighbor on my walk who said that that was the first day she had been outside because she had had a terrible reaction to the vaccine that had knocked her out for three days. As a result, I cleared my calendar for the three days after the shot was to be given, and made all the preparations to be house-bound and possibly bed-bound for that period.
And then … nothing happened. I had no side effects at all. The pharmacist who gave me both the covid booster and the flu shot at the same time said that since I chose to have them on the same arm, that it might be sore. But even that did not happen. The only thing I did out of my normal behavior was drink plenty of fluids, which is what the CDC recommends to alleviate side effects..
It is the case that side effects vary from person to person and clearly I was among the fortunate ones. But while the variation in reactions is well known, the reasons are not. I recall that when the first covid vaccines were being given, people would compare their side effects and there was a theory floating around that having bad side effects meant that your immune system was working properly. That always seemed a little glib to me, but it did help to make the people with bad side effects feel better.
We are being warned that the coming winter flu season might be quite severe and that we should get the flu shot. How do they predict this? They look to Australia, which just had its worst flu season in five years and “which experiences winter ahead of the U.S.”, because the summer and winter seasons there are six months off from those in the northern hemisphere.
Researchers and modelers often look to the southern hemisphere, which experiences its flu season first — typically from May to October — to predict how the season will look in the U.S., and experts tell ABC News we should take warning from Australia.
“We often look to Australia and the southern hemisphere as a signal of what we may expect,” said Dr. John Brownstein, an epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and an ABC News contributor. “Obviously, it’s not a perfect 1-to-1 match but, more often than not, the severity of the flu season in Australia is a good correlate of what we might expect, and it helps us prepare.”
But why do we see Australia as a leading indicator? Why can’t the reverse be true, that the flu season in the US is a predictor of what will happen in Australia six months later? What do Australians use as leading indicators? Since the US had a very mild flu season last winter and Australia just had its worst flu season in five years, then that direction of flow would not work. But is that just a post facto conclusion based on what happened this time? Or is it always the case that Australia is a leading indicator? And if so why? I have not been able to get an answer to that question.
Another pattern that has been observed is that the covid numbers in Europe are also used as a leading indicator for what happens in the US and the recent signs of a surge there are being viewed with concern here.
I am still wearing my mask in indoor public places. As to when I might stop wearing it, I am thinking of using as a benchmark when the deaths from covid drop to about the level of deaths from flu. Some reports suggest that we have already reached that point, though that conclusion seems less than certain.
Of course, one could argue that even then, it might make sense to continue wearing the mask in order to avoid both the flu and covid. I have got so used to wearing it that it is only mildly irksome.