As flu season approaches, physicians are encouraging people to be vaccinated, saying vaccinations are especially important this year because of the COVID pandemic. Nidhi Tiwari, MD, an internist with Rush Copley Medical Group, answers some questions about the flu shot and its importance.
Why is it important to get the flu shot this year? The flu vaccine is more important than ever this year to reduce your risk of the flu and to conserve health care resources. Every year, thousands of people die from the flu. The vaccine helps prevent you from contracting it.
Also, during this pandemic, it is important for you to stay as healthy as possible in order to reduce your risk from COVID-19, which has more serious impacts on those who are fighting other medical conditions. The potential for an individual to contract the flu and COVID at the same time could be even more dangerous than either of these illnesses alone. Getting the flu vaccine will help protect you, your family and the community. It will help prevent an outbreak of an illness we have protection against.
Since we are still in the midst of the pandemic and expecting another surge in hospitalizations due to COVID-19, it is important to control the flu as much as possible to conserve health care resources for those with COVID. We don’t have a vaccine yet for COVID-19, but we do have a vaccine to help prevent the flu, and we want to prevent as many people from contracting it as possible.
Who should be vaccinated? Everyone except for babies younger than six months. This is the recommendation from both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics. It is especially important that people at high risk from COVID-19 get the flu vaccine.
When should you be vaccinated? The sooner, the better. To protect you for the entire flu season, we recommend getting vaccinated in September or October since it takes approximately two weeks for the shot to be fully effective, and flu season can begin as early as September. Even if you don’t get the shot until later in the season, getting it late is better than not getting it at all.
Is it safe to get the flu vaccine? Yes, enhanced safety measures are in place to protect you while you’re getting the shot – and to protect your health care team as well.
How long does the flu shot protect you? Once vaccinated, you should be protected for a minimum of six months. Protection decreases after that – that’s one of the reasons we recommend getting flu shots every year.
Should someone who has COVID-19 get the flu vaccine? Yes, the flu vaccine is recommended for those who have COVID-19 - but they should wait until they are no longer contagious and no longer need to quarantine.