Why it’s critical to get a flu shot during the pandemic.

by Dr. Howard Bassel, Urgent Care and Family Medicine Physician, MedStar Health, Dr. Richard Kennedy, Internal Medicine Physician, MedStar Health
October 14, 2020

While COVID-19 and the flu have similar symptoms, there is one distinct difference—we have an effective vaccine to lower your risk of getting the flu. Now, more than ever, it’s critical to get a flu shot to keep yourself and others as healthy as possible.

Similarly to COVID-19, the flu can be deadly for certain groups of people.

It’s true that more people have died this year from COVID-19 than the flu. But that doesn’t mean the flu shouldn’t be taken seriously. Last year nearly 20 thousand people in the United States died as a result of complications from the flu. And during the previous year, roughly 50 thousand people died from the flu. One death is too many, especially when there are steps we can take to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

In a similar fashion, COVID-19 and the flu are both airborne infections that are easily spread through droplets expelled from the mouth and nose. Both can result in a fever, body aches, and coughing—or worse. Like COVID-19, aging adults or kids under the age of two with preexisting health conditions, such as asthma, high blood pressure, or heart conditions, can experience secondary infections from the flu, like pneumonia, that may result in hospitalization or even death.

There’s no vaccine yet for COVID-19, but you can protect yourself and those around you from the flu.

Although research and development of COVID-19 vaccine is underway, we’re still a long way off from having a readily available vaccine to prevent the disease. However, we do have a way to control one virus during the upcoming months, and that’s with a flu shot.

The flu shot can reduce your chances of getting the flu.

The flu shot has been proven time and again to minimize your risk of getting the flu. Scientists and doctors are vigilant about studying current strands of the flu in order to predict which strands are most likely to circulate between September through April. So, while the flu shot doesn’t offer 100 percent immunity against current strands of the flu, typical protection offers 50 to 70 percent. This means far fewer people will get infected with the flu. And, even if you do come down with the flu after getting vaccinated, you’ll experience fewer and milder symptoms than if you didn’t get the flu shot.

Vaccination can decrease the burden on our healthcare providers who are caring for patients with COVID-19.

This is the first time it’s possible to become infected with the flu and COVID-19. Because of this, there’s a lot we don’t know about how our bodies will react. Certainly getting infected with both can be a deadly combination, especially for individuals who have a greater risk of complications.

By getting a flu shot, you reduce your chances of getting seriously ill from the flu and being hospitalized. With fewer people hospitalized because of the flu, healthcare providers will have more time and energy to focus on caring for those who are seriously ill with COVID-19 or other diseases.

Getting a flu shot is a courteous way to minimize your risk of spreading the flu to those around you.

If there’s any silver lining to what we’ve experienced with COVID-19, it’s a greater awareness of the importance of taking safety precautions to protect ourselves and others. Just like social distancing and wearing a face mask, getting a flu shot during the pandemic not only keeps you healthier, it can reduce your chances of spreading the flu to someone else. In fact, if enough people get vaccinated for the flu, we can achieve herd immunity. That means the majority of our population could become immune to the flu and therefore, can’t spread it to others.

Getting a #FluShot during the pandemic is one step you can take to protect yourself and those around you. On the #LiveWellHealthy blog, Dr. Bassel and Dr. Kennedy share why you especially need to get vaccinated this year: https://bit.ly/3jZ2MU3.

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How to safely get a flu shot during the pandemic.

Who should get a flu shot?

We recommend that everyone above the age of six months gets vaccinated for the flu. Similarly to COVID-19, getting a flu shot is especially important for aging adults and people with other health issues. Individuals with comorbidities, like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease, are at an increased risk for developing complications from the flu. This is why it’s critical to get a flu shot during the pandemic. And, unlike COVID-19, children under the age of two are also at a greater risk of developing being hospitalized from the flu, especially if they have underlying conditions, including heart issues or seizures.

Even if you aren’t considered to be in the high-risk group, getting a flu shot ensures you’re doing your part. You’ll minimize your chances of getting the flu and spreading it to someone who may have a weakened immune system.

When should I get a flu shot?

Flu season begins in September and lasts throughout spring, and the flu shot is already readily available. It takes your body nearly two weeks to respond to the flu shot and develop antibodies that will protect you. So the earlier you can get a flu shot during the pandemic, the better. Getting vaccinated early means you’ll have immunity sooner than if you delay getting the flu shot.

If you have an infection of any kind, whether you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 or you’re already experiencing flu-like symptoms, wait to get your flu shot until you’ve recovered. Once you’ve been without a fever for over 24 hours without needing to take medication to lower your temperature, then you should get a flu shot.

Where should I get a flu shot?

Getting a flu shot now is easier than ever, as the vaccine is more widely available than its been previously. Many pharmacies, fire departments, state-run flu clinics are providing flu shots, but the first place you should ask about a flu shot is your primary care doctor. In many cases, your doctor can provide the vaccine or direct you to another safe location that can, like a MedStar Health urgent care.

At MedStar Health, we continue to take your safety and health seriously. We’re staggering appointments for flu shots, limiting points of entry to encourage social distancing, and maintaining separate spaces for treating those who are sick and those who are healthy.

The flu can travel just as fast as COVID-19. Let’s all do our part to minimize its threat by getting a flu shot during the pandemic.

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Category: Health Innovation, Living Well     Tags: covid-19covid-19 safetyfluflu preventionflu shotprimary careprimary care providerurgent care