Why You Really Need a Flu Shot This Year
With another flu season arriving during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to get a flu shot in addition to COVID-19 vaccines and boosters.
This year, the country’s focus remains on battling the COVID-19 pandemic; however, the flu season has returned whether we’re ready for it or not. That means that even if you usually skip getting an annual flu shot, you should consider getting one this year.
Last year, lockdowns and other measures intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19 also played a large role in limiting the spread of the flu. This fall, with lockdowns over and restrictions easing, the flu will have a greater opportunity to spread among a more relaxed public.
In a virtual news conference on October 7th, Rochelle Walensky MD , Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director, warned that “the low level of flu activity last season could set us up for a severe season this year. Because of so little disease last year, population immunity is likely lower, putting us all at increased risk for disease this year especially among those most vulnerable, including our children.” Dr. Walensky added, “This is why it is doubly important this year that we build up community immunity with flu vaccination as we head into the fall and winter."
After you receive a flu shot, your body produces antibodies that will kill the virus if you’re exposed to it. It won’t protect you against every strain of influenza virus but it will help against the strains expected to be the most common. Even if you still get sick after getting a flu shot, your illness will usually be milder than if you didn’t get the vaccine at all. Getting a flu shot not only protects you but reduces spread of the virus in your community.
“For both flu and COVID-19, vaccination is critically important to protect ourselves, our families and our communities. While COVID-19 vaccines have been a central focus for both public health professionals and the public for several months now, we must not forget the importance of other vaccinations like flu vaccines,” Dr. Walensky remarked during the virtual news conference, “Get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can and, ideally, get a flu vaccine by the end of October. Flu and COVID-19 vaccines can be given at the same visit."
Protect your health and your community’s healthcare resources by getting a flu shot this year. Anytime you get one, it will provide health benefits to you and those around you.
Getting Your Flu Shot at PIH Health
All PIH Health primary care offices are now stocked with the seasonal flu vaccine for all ages. You can also stop by one of the PIH Health urgent care centers or pharmacies to request a flu shot.
Still not sure you need one? Read on for a few good reasons to get one this year even if you normally don’t.
You’ll Reduce Your Chance of Getting Sick
Since the COVID-19 and flu viruses are both active right now, your chance of becoming sick this year is higher than usual. Although getting a flu shot won’t stop you from getting COVID-19, it will make it less likely you’ll get the flu. Not getting the flu will keep you healthier and your immune system stronger, which is important with the coronavirus running rampant.
If you don’t get a flu shot, you may find yourself battling the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Or you can develop the flu while you’re still recovering from coronavirus or vice versa. Becoming ill with both viruses within a short period of time may make you very sick and lead to more serious complications.
People who are over age 65, under age 2 or those with serious health issues are more likely to develop severe complications from the flu. A flu shot is particularly important if you’re pregnant, work in a healthcare setting, live in a nursing home or have an underlying health condition such as heart, lung, kidney or liver disease, asthma, HIV/AIDS or a condition that suppresses your immune system. But no matter what your age and health condition, it’s hard to predict whether the flu will cause mild, moderate or severe symptoms.
It Will Be Easier to Make a Diagnosis
Both the flu and COVID-19 can cause similar symptoms, including coughing, fever, sore throat, nasal congestion, headache, body aches and difficulty breathing. If you develop any of these symptoms, it may be harder for a doctor to determine why you’re sick and which type of treatment would be most effective. If you’ve had a flu shot, it will make it less likely your symptoms are due to the flu and more likely they’re a result of the coronavirus.
Hospitals Won’t Be as Overwhelmed
In 2020 and the early part of this year, hospitals quickly reached capacity in coronavirus hot spots. Flu season, coupled with the continuing pandemic, may stretch healthcare resources even thinner during this fall and winter – making it difficult for people to get the care they need. If a similar situation happens this year, hospitals may be unable to cope with the increased demand for healthcare services due to a combination of the flu and COVID-19.
If you need medical attention, there are several ways to receive care before a hospital visit becomes appropriate. You can schedule an in-person visit with your primary care provider or visit one of our Urgent Care Centers. Alternatively, PIH Health Physicians offers the option for telehealth visits. A telehealth appointment provides individual time with your provider via your mobile device or computer. These virtual appointments with your provider allow you to continue receiving the care you need without leaving your home. Whichever setting you choose, you will be helping hospitals ensure they have the lifesaving space and resources they need during this flu season.
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