November 3, 2020 2:24 pm
Each year, about 20% of Americans get the flu, and this highly contagious respiratory infection typically leads to 225,000 hospitalizations and kills about 20,000 people. While it’s important to get a flu shot even in “normal” times, the COVID-19 global pandemic places a new importance on infection prevention—particularly as flu season overlaps with a surge of COVID-19 cases in Mississippi.
There currently is no vaccine that prevents COVID-19. While the flu shot doesn’t offer COVID-19 protection, it does reduce your risk of getting the flu. You can have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, and recent research from England suggests that people who contracted both were more than twice as likely to die from the infections as those with COVID-19 alone.
Who Needs a Flu Shot?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevent recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older, with very few exceptions, get a flu shot each year. The flu shot is especially crucial for people at high risk for flu complications, such as those ages 65 and older and those with some chronic health conditions. These same groups are also at an increased risk of severe illness due to COVID-19.
The flu shot won’t always offer you 100% protection from the flu, but it does reduce your risk of contracting it. And if you do get the flu after getting the flu shot, it may reduce the severity of your symptoms and make you less likely to need hospitalization. That’s particularly important this year, since hospital admissions usually increase during flu season. If fewer people are hospitalized with the flu, the health system may be less stressed if additional COVID-19 patients need advanced medical care.
When Should You Get Vaccinated?
It’s best to get your flu shot in early fall (September or October) before the virus starts spreading in the community. If you haven’t gotten your shot, though, it’s not too late. It takes about two weeks for antibodies against the flu to develop and offer you protection, so get it sooner rather than later. Flu season typically peaks from December to February.
There is still much to be learned about COVID-19, but one thing is for certain: Getting your flu shot this season goes a long way in protecting you, your loved ones and your community from these potentially life-threatening illnesses.
This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center