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Health experts recommend getting both flu shot and COVID vaccine

We wore masks last year, cutting down on the total number of flu cases. This year, masks are off and flu season is coming. It's a good idea to get your flu shot.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Alabama no longer has a mask mandate and health experts are urging people to get the flu shot ahead of flu season.

Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Public Health says the flu shot can even be co-administered with the COVID-19 vaccine. She said that while side effects are normal, you should always contact a health care professional if you have a life-threatening reaction.

"When we consider the side effect profile of both vaccines, we know that sometimes we're going to see fever, were going to see soreness at the site of injection, we may have muscle aches chills or body aches," said Landers.

"With everything open, we're definitely gonna need the flu shot," said Huntsville Hospital Infectious Disease Specialist Ali Hassoun. "The flu used to be during the winter as the most common respiratory illness that we see, unfortunately, associated with significant death in those at risk and elderly, as well."

As more people have shed their masks, more people are getting infected with other respiratory viruses.

"The last few months, we've definitely seen more viral illnesses, not COVID only," said Hassoun. "We've seen RSV, respiratory syncytial virus, we've seen, what we call- other viruses that we didn't use to see last year because a lot of people used to wear the masks," said Hassoun.

RELATED: Huntsville Hospital Fever & Flu Clinic adds special pediatric COVID-19 testing hours

All of this to say - no, you don't need to wear a mask to protect yourself from the flu, although it can serve as an extra layer of protection but getting vaccinated against the flu can make a world of difference for both you and healthcare providers.

"We want to cut down on hospitalization, we want to cut down on severe illnesses. So you'll see it, it might be mild if you're vaccinated, but it will then get you into the hospital," said Hassoun.

If you're one of those people that feel sick after the flu shot, rest assured, that is not you getting the flu, it's actually you experiencing symptoms from the flu shot itself.

"People say you get the vaccine, the flu vaccine- you get flu-like illness, the reality you never get a flu viral infection. The reality is, like any other vaccine, some pain around the side of the injection, you can get some aching, you might get low-grade temperature but really you never get the virus, you never get the infection," said Hassoun.

RELATED: 'We're already detecting flu early' | ADPH encourages flu vaccine as COVID hospitalizations spike