Getting Your Flu Shot May Be More Important Than Ever
For years now, most of us have been focused on the COVID-19 pandemic that has sickened thousands of Americans and changed our lives in so many ways. And now, we’re entering flu season — another virus that spreads easily. And it’s important that we all take the flu as seriously as we’ve been taking COVID-19. After all, flu sickens thousands of people every year; one study estimates that between three and 11 percent of Americans get the flu during flu season, and many require hospitalization. Luckily, there is a seasonal flu vaccine available. September and October are considered ideal times for getting the vaccine, but getting it as late as January or beyond — whenever flu is still circulating — is still a good idea.
Most years, getting a flu vaccine is as easy as visiting your local pharmacy or clinic. Sometimes they’re available at workplaces. This year, however, getting the flu vaccine may be a little more challenging because of the continued need for social distancing. Health officials are working through this to find solutions. Talk to your health care provider about getting the vaccine, or visit vaccines.gov and use the Vaccine Finder tool to find a location near you once the flu vaccine becomes available. Or, download for more information on where to get your flu shot.
While there’s no crystal ball, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does predict that both flu and COVID-19 will spread this fall and winter. Because it’s possible to get both illnesses at the same time, protecting yourself against the flu is more important than ever. Getting the flu vaccine will not protect you from the virus that causes COVID-19.
Currently, the best defense against COVID-19 is to avoid being exposed to it. The CDC recommends:
- Ensure you are up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccination.
- If you’re not up-to-date with your vaccines and have been exposed to COVID, it’s recommended that you mask for 10 days and get tested on Day Five.
- If you’ve tested positive and have a healthy immune system, you should isolate for five days.
- Once isolation has ended, the agency recommends you wear a high-quality mask through Day 10.
- Until Day 11 at least, you should refrain from visiting or being around people who are more likely to have severe outcomes from COVID.
These same safety measures can help prevent the spread of flu, too. But the best defense against flu is, by far, getting the flu vaccine every year. This is true for everyone 6 months old and older (there are exceptions, but very few.) There are different flu vaccines depending on a person’s age and other factors. For instance, babies do not get the same flu vaccine as most adults; adults over 65 may get a different vaccine as well. Talk to your health care provider about which vaccine is right for you and your family members.
Now that COVID-19 prevention measures have been emphasized for several years, perhaps we’ll help keep the spread of flu at bay as well by continuing to practice them according to CDC guidelines. But remember: getting your flu vaccine this fall — and even into the winter months — is the very best step you can take to avoid getting it.
By Laura Grathwol, Contributing Writer
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Key facts about influenza (flu). Accessed June 18, 2020.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Frequently asked influenza (flu) questions: 2020 - 2021 Season. Accessed June 18, 2020.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy Habits to Help Prevent Flu. Accessed June 18, 2020.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Who Should and Who Should NOT get a Flu Vaccine. Accessed June 18, 2020.
Last Updated June 24, 2020