The Importance of Flu Vaccination in the Midst of COVID-19

| Posted On Aug 06, 2021 | By:

pregnant woman getting flu shotAlthough much of our medical news these days is focused on COVID-19, its Delta variant, and the importance of getting a COVID-19 vaccine, we are quickly approaching the time of year when we have to prepare for the emergence of another virus: influenza, aka “the flu.” The flu season usually begins in October and lasts through March or April. Last year – with strict masking policies, social distancing requirements, hand washing practices, and a strong public push to get the flu vaccine – we were fortunate, and the US experienced a very mild flu season. Does that mean that flu is no longer “a thing?”

Unfortunately, that is not the case, and the flu does remain an annual epidemic and public health threat.

As COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing mandates have eased, we anticipate that cases of influenza will be on the rise this season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot every year, including women who are pregnant. Pregnant women who get influenza are at greater risk for serious health problems compared to non-pregnant women. Additionally, a flu shot can protect both a pregnant woman as well as her baby from getting sick with the flu.

Bottom Line: Getting the flu shot is the single best way to protect against the flu and to help prevent the spread of influenza. And with COVID-19 cases surging once again, getting a flu vaccine is important not just to protect yourself and the people around you from the flu, but also to help our healthcare system respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are a few things you should know about influenza and COVID-19:

#1: The flu and COVID-19 are different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2), and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. Therefore, it is possible to become infected with and contract both flu and COVID-19 when they are circulating in your community.

#2: Influenza and COVID-19 have several overlapping symptoms. The viruses share symptoms like fever, chills, fatigue, body aches, cough, runny nose and headache. Although COVID-19 has some very distinct symptoms, such as loss of taste and smell, the two viruses can present in much the same way. Therefore, flu vaccination decreases the amount and severity of illness caused by flu, reducing symptoms that might be confused with those of COVID-19.

#3: Having the COVID-19 vaccine does not protect you against flu. Because the viruses that cause influenza and COVID-19 infections are different, you need different vaccines. If you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 – that’s great! – but you will still need to get a flu vaccine to protect yourself and your family from the influenza virus this season.

#4: Influenza is a serious illness. Getting the flu can be very serious. Over the past decade, on average, 36,000 Americans have died from flu complications each year. Because of the number of strains of flu, the vaccine sometimes does not contain protection from the ones that ultimately begin to circulate, and you can get the illness even if you are vaccinated. In these cases, however, having the vaccine can help your body fight the strain of flu you did contract, reducing your risk of getting severely sick and of hospitalization or death.

For more information about the flu and the influenza vaccine, please visit the CDC website.

Atrius Health will be communicating our vaccine clinics and ways you can get your influenza vaccine in September.

 

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