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Why You Really Need a Flu Shot During the COVID-19 Pandemic

woman on the couch sick with the flu

Although the country’s focus is understandably on the COVID-19 pandemic, flu season is upon us whether we’re ready or not. That means that even if you usually skip your annual flu shot, this is one year you should consider it.

Ready For Your Flu Shot?

After you receive a flu shot, your body produces antibodies that will kill the virus if you’re exposed to it. While it won’t protect you against every strain of the influenza virus, it will help against the strains expected to be the most common.

Even if you still get sick after getting a flu shot, your illness will usually be milder than if you didn’t get the vaccine at all. Getting a flu shot protects you. It also reduces the spread of the virus in your community.

The CDC recommends getting your shot by the end of October. But getting one even later will still benefit you and those around you.

More Reasons to Get a Flu Shot

Still not sure you need one? Read on for a few good reasons to get one this year, even if you normally don’t.

You’ll Reduce Your Chance of Getting Sick

The COVID-19 and flu viruses are both active right now and will be throughout the fall and winter. Your chance of becoming sick this year is higher than usual.

Although getting a flu shot won’t stop you from getting COVID-19, it will make it less likely you’ll get the flu. Not getting the flu will keep you healthier and your immune system stronger, which is important with the coronavirus running rampant.

If you don’t get a flu shot, you may find yourself battling the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Or you can develop the flu while you’re still recovering from coronavirus or vice versa. Becoming ill with both viruses within a short period of time may make you very sick and lead to more serious complications.

People who are over age 65, under age 2, or those with serious health issues are more likely to develop severe complications from the flu. A flu shot is also particularly important if you:

But regardless of your age and health condition, it's hard to predict whether the flu will cause mild to severe symptoms.

Need a Flu Shot?

Our primary care clinics are now vaccinating against flu.

It'll Be Easier to Get a Diagnosis

Both the flu and COVID-19 can cause similar symptoms, including:

If you develop any of these symptoms, it may be harder for a doctor to determine why you’re sick and which type of treatment would be most effective.

If you’ve had a flu shot, it'll be less likely your symptoms are due to the flu and more likely that they’re a result of the coronavirus.

Hospitals Won’t Be as Overwhelmed

Hospitals quickly reached capacity in coronavirus hot spots this spring and summer. Flu season, coupled with the continuing pandemic, may stretch healthcare resources even thinner during the fall and winter. This situation making it difficult for people to get the care they need.

Last year, hospitals admitted more than 400,000 people for the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If a similar situation happens this year, hospitals may be unable to cope with the increased demand for healthcare services due to a combination of the flu and COVID-19.

“Historically, less than half of Americans get flu vaccines. This is the year that I’m asking the American public to seriously reconsider. That decision may make available a hospital bed for somebody else that really needs it for COVID,” explained Robert Redfield, CDC director, during a TIME 100 Talks discussion.

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