Why More Americans are Getting the Flu Vaccine This Year

So many of us are waiting with bated breath to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine. There are many questions about how much it will cost, how effective it will be and how soon we’ll have it. We have a blog about the progress and what we know so far over on our sister supplement BergaOne’s blog.

There’s another vaccine we’re interested in, too: the flu vaccine. Every year, it’s important to get the flu vaccine. The flu mutates quickly, so getting the shot yearly is a must. For older people, it is often free, especially if you are on Medicare. And it is more important. People over 65 are far more likely to become severely ill or die from the flu than younger people. For people with other medical concerns, it’s also important to avoid the flu. Adding one medical condition on top of another can frequently lead to worse symptoms and a higher risk of hospitalization.

Thirty percent of Americans in a survey said they were more likely to get the flu shot this year than before. Unfortunately, the study didn’t ask the people the reason why. The flu shot will not protect you from COVID-19. But, it will help keep you out of the ER where you could come in contact with COVID-19. It will also help keep you healthy and your immune system strong to prevent you from contracting COVID-19. It might simply be that people don’t want another thing to worry about this fall.

Experts don’t know if the flu will combine with COVID-19 and make people sicker, which is another reason to get the vaccine. “We don’t yet know whether that could compound either illness, but why take the risk,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

Additionally, the flu and COVID-19 share some of the same symptoms. If you have had the flu vaccine and later become ill, it will help doctors diagnose you with COVID-19 promptly because they will be able to rule out the flu. The flu vaccine isn’t perfect. But, even if you are not fully protected, it can significantly reduce flu symptoms should you become infected.  

The CDC has warned people not to get the flu shot earlier than they usually would, especially people at higher risk. The flu vaccine loses its ability to protect you as the flu season wears on. Getting it now will mean you are less protected in January. The CDC says September and October are the best times to get it. If you don’t get it by then, you haven’t “missed the window.” The vaccine is available all flu season long, and getting it later is better than skipping it.

According to doctors, the masks we are already wearing should help lower the number of flu cases we see this year. “We won’t see as much flu if people are masking the way we are recommending,” said Dr. Mark Kenton, chief of the emergency department at Mercy Medical Center. “We had a really bad flu season last year with a lot of influenza B. When we went into quarantine, we really saw the flu dropped significantly... I do not know this for certain, but just from the standpoint of how the flu virus spreads, wear a mask and the virus is less likely to spread to someone else.”
 
We are pleased that so many people are planning on getting the flu shot. It protects them, and it prevents them from spreading the flu to others. However, some people cannot have the flu shot because of other medical concerns. Speak to your doctor about whether the flu shot is right for you and the best place for you to get one.
August 14, 2020
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