PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – During Thursday’s weekly Peoria City/County Health Department COVID-19 update, health officials emphasized the importance of flu shots and shared details on the COVID-19 booster shot approval process.

Health officials anticipate a more mild flu season

Local health officials said a more normal flu season may be on the horizon.

With strong COVID-19 mitigations in place last flu season, doctors said we were fortunate to see fewer people falling ill to influenza.

This fall, health leaders say signs are showing we may be headed towards what many consider a normal flu season.

Dr. Samer Sader, Chief Medical Officer with UnityPoint Health-Peoria, said to predict the flu season, experts look at how country’s in the Southern Hemisphere have fared.

He said data is showing flu cases will likely be higher than last year, but similar to years pre-COVID-19 pandemic.

Sader said the community should get their flu vaccine to not only protect themselves but also others.

“Everything you do to reduce your risk of being ill is of great benefit– If you have somebody vulnerable in your household, think about them and if they got influenza followed by COVID. It’s not fun to have two respiratory illnesses back to back,” Sader said.

Sader also said it is safe to get both the flu and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time.

“If you’re uncomfortable, get one, one week and go get the other one the next week, but in reality, our immune system is built to handle many challenges at once,” Sader said.

Moderna’s booster shot is recommended by FDA review panel

Booster shots may soon see an expansion.

Thursday afternoon, an FDA review panel recommended booster doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for high-risk individuals.

The board will also review Johnson & Johnson’s booster on Friday, but local health officials said there will be a wait before the doses can go out.

Monica Hendrickson, Peoria City-County health administrator, said both boosters would still need to receive final approval from the FDA.

She said the boosters would then go to the CDC, where guidance will be given on who can receive the shots.

Hendrickson said she expects the CDC to make their recommendations about the boosters around October 20th or 21st.

“Operationally, we should look after that to be able to start providing it in our communities. So I know people are very excited about seeing the news that will say unanimously Moderna boosters approved, but it’s still step one in a multiple-step process,” Hendrickson said.

The booster recommended for Moderna is a half dose.

Hendrickson said that will not change the ability to provide the booster, but it could create some planning issues.

“Making sure that we have enough supplies, that we kind of understand what our stocks are of those,” Hendrickson said.

Pfizer’s booster shot received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA on September 22.