In the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the flu has been a little overshadowed. But getting your flu shot is even more important than normal this year.
Why? Well, there are a number of reasons why it’s important to receive an annual flu vaccine, either through the traditional flu shot or using a nasal form of the vaccine.
It’s best to get your flu vaccine each year by the time that Halloween rolls around. Getting the vaccine sometime between the middle of September and the end of October can help ensure your body has time to build up antibodies before flu season rolls around.
But if you still haven’t gotten yours, it isn’t too late! Need a few more reasons to roll up your sleeve? Read on.
Reasons to Get Your Flu Shot
While the flu is not as deadly as COVID-19, it is a leading cause of both sick days and hospitalizations each year. And in some cases, particularly among small children or older adults, the flu can even be deadly.
Each year, the flu vaccine is reformulated to help protect against the strains of influenza predicted to be strongest in that year. That makes getting an annual flu shot important. But beyond the basic reasons, there are a few specific reasons why you should get a flu shot this year:
It’s possible to get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.
Sounds awful, right? While getting two potent respiratory illnesses at once isn’t something we really want to think about, it can definitely happen.
That’s because while the two illnesses share similar symptoms in many cases, they are caused by two different viruses. The flu is caused by a strain of influenza, while COVID-19 is the result of a strain of what’s called the coronavirus.
If you’re exposed to particles of both viruses, it is possible to get both illnesses at the same time, which could bombard your immune system and cause intense respiratory symptoms that may lead to complications and hospitalization.
Your best defense is to get vaccinated against both COVID-19 and the flu, which leads to our next fact…
You can get the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu shot at the same time.
As recently as a few months back, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommended waiting at least 14 days between vaccines. But recent information has shown that it is safe to receive both the COVID-9 vaccine (either an initial dose or a booster) and the flu shot at the same time.
Consider it the “one-stop-shop” approach for preventing two viruses that are predicted to spread virulently during the colder months. If you’re concerned about having a sore arm after getting two shots, you can request that your shots be given in separate arms.
Because any vaccine stimulates the immune system to protect you from illness, you can experience mild side effects on the day or two following the vaccine. So you may want to schedule your shots when you have some downtime.
The flu shot protects you—and those around you.
OK, this fact you’ve probably heard before. This is true of any vaccine. When you’re vaccinated against the flu, you lower your personal risk of developing the flu, but you also help protect others.
Your cocoon of flu protection can help safeguard those with compromised immune systems (for whom vaccines may not be as effective), those who cannot receive the vaccine due to an allergy or other reason, those who are too young to be vaccinated, and others at a high risk of developing complications from the flu.
If you’re pregnant, there’s an added reason to get the flu shot: The antibodies stimulated by the vaccine pass along to your baby, helping protect him or her after birth. Children cannot be vaccinated against the flu until age 6 months.
The flu shot can help protect you against severe effects of COVID-19.
While we want to make it clear that getting a flu shot does not protect you from COVID-19, there is a connection. Research has shown that receiving the flu vaccine—particularly if you’ve also received the COVID-19 vaccine—can help protect you from some of the most severe symptoms of COVID-19.
In fact, the data showed that among nearly 75,000 people studied, those who did not get a flu shot were 20 percent more likely to end up in the ICU with severe COVID-19 and almost 60 percent more likely to seek emergency medical attention.
Every little bit of protection matters. So getting your flu shot could help protect you from both getting the flu and from being hospitalized if you get COVID-19. That’s powerful info!