Receiving a flu shot each year is the best preventative step you can take to ensure you do not come down with influenza. The CDC recommends that people 6 months and older get a yearly flu vaccine. Flu vaccinations prevent millions of people from developing the flu each year. The CDC states that during the 2018-2019 flu season, the vaccine stopped an estimated 4.4 million influenza illnesses, 2.3 million related medical visits and 58,000 influenza-caused hospitalizations, as well as 3,500 deaths. A case of influenza can be especially severe for the elderly or those with compromised immune systems. Fortunately, you can help avoid this scenario by receiving an annual flu vaccine.
COVID-19 has presented many challenges to patients this year. As per the CDC, fewer patients are visiting and delaying their routine doctor appointments. In fact, a recent report states that 41% of U.S. adults have delayed or avoided medical care, including routine medical visits. This report also found that delaying or avoiding medical care was more prevalent among people with two or more underlying conditions. This trend is especially troubling since it is highly recommended for people who have underlying health conditions to receive the flu shot this year.
Here are the top reasons that receiving the flu vaccine is equally if not more important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reason #1: Avoid a Mistaken COVID-19 Diagnosis
The coronavirus and the flu have similar symptoms, including fever, cough, difficulty breathing and fatigue. So, the convergence of both illnesses can make it difficult for you to know the difference. To combat the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the proper protocols, it is recommended that anyone who is experiencing flu-like symptoms get tested.
It’s important to note, that one major difference in symptoms between the coronavirus and the flu is that those who develop the coronavirus often experience a loss in taste and/or smell. These are not flu symptoms.
Reason #2: The Flu Vaccine Does Not Increase Your Risk of Developing COVID-19
There has been no scientific research that states that receiving the flu vaccine increases your risk of developing COVID-19. Recent research studied more than 13,000 patients who were tested for COVID-19. Of those studied, 4,138 people received the flu vaccine while 9,082 had not received the vaccine. The researchers concluded that receiving the flu vaccine did not increase the risk of developing COVID-19 or making the symptoms more severe.
It’s important to know that receiving a flu vaccine will not protect you against the coronavirus.
Reason #3: Hospital Shortages Due to COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a new set of challenges to medical providers, causing shortages of hospital beds, ICU beds, ventilators and more essential healthcare equipment. During this flu season when COVID-19 is still widely spread, hospitals may face additional shortages. Receiving a flu shot can help decrease the chances of developing a serious influenza infection and needing hospitalization, so potentially limited healthcare resources are available for others.
Reason #4: Having the Coronavirus and the Flu Can Make Your Symptoms More Severe
Yes, that is right – you can have the coronavirus and the flu at the same time, although healthcare professionals are still studying how common it is. Both viruses affect the respiratory system. While this is still being studied, initial findings show that having both illnesses at the same time can put a major strain on your breathing and lungs, causing symptoms to increase in severity.
Reason #5: The Flu Vaccine is More Readily Available this Year
The CDC is urging that anyone 6 months or older receive the flu vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic. To increase widespread flu vaccination, the CDC is increasing the availability of the vaccine, including purchasing an additional 2 million doses of the pediatric flu vaccine and 9.3 million doses of adult flu vaccine this season.
Reason #6: Receiving the Flu Vaccine Protects Your Family
Flu symptoms can range from mild to severe and life-threatening. Receiving a flu vaccine is critical for not only your health but also for the people you live with. If you are living with an elderly person or someone with a compromised immune system, receiving a flu vaccine is especially important for protecting these vulnerable populations.
Influenza strains change every year. This is why a new vaccine is developed each year, as your immune system’s response from the vaccine decreases over time. Receiving the flu shot once a year will help protect you through the whole flu season.
The bottom line: Don’t forget about getting your flu shot this year. Minimize your chances of developing the flu altogether. During the COVID-19 pandemic, you can safely receive your flu vaccination with your PACT healthcare provider. If you’re in Connecticut and would like to find a doctor near you, you can locate a board-certified PACT primary care physician using our searchable list here.
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