The Importance of a Flu Vaccine During COVID-19

Your Health Matters

With fall comes the start of flu season, but this year, the influenza virus is sharing space with the coronavirus – COVID-19. While there is still much to learn about this new virus that is currently blamed for more than 193,000 deaths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many people at higher risk from flu also seem to be at higher risk from COVID-19. This makes the flu vaccine especially important to get in 2020.

Mohammed Ali, M.D. with Meritus Infectious Disease Specialists, explains that the flu is an acute respiratory disease that strikes quickly and causes more severe symptoms than a common cold – high fever, runny nose, sore throat, muscle aches, headache, coughing and feeling tired.

How do you get the flu? When someone infected with the flu virus coughs or sneezes, they spread droplets of saliva through the air. The droplets can get into your nose, mouth and eyes or you can touch contaminated surfaces and contract the flu.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because what scientists know so far about COVID-19 is that people become infected with it much the same way – droplets in the air and contaminated surfaces.

There is currently no available vaccine for COVID-19. The flu vaccine, however, which has been around since the 1940s, provides a body the environment to produce antibodies to fight the virus. These remain in a person’s system throughout the flu season, providing the best protection against common strains and less severe symptoms if a secondary strain is contracted.

The CDC recommends that everyone six months and older get vaccinated against the flu. Vaccination not only protects you against the flu, but reduces the spread of influenza throughout the community.

Currently, the best prevention that health care professionals are aware of to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is the three W’s: Wearing masks or face coverings when around others, both indoors and out; watching your distance by remaining at least 6 feet away from others, both indoors and outdoors; and washing your hands thoroughly and often.

As people gather more often and soon more regularly indoors, it will be important for everyone to do all they can to prevent the spread of both of these viruses – influenza and COVID-19. The flu has proven to be a serious disease, particularly among young children, older adults and people with certain chronic health conditions such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes or those with compromised immune systems from chemotherapy or other medical treatments. People of all ages and health conditions have been diagnosed with COVID-19 during the past seven months. Until a vaccine is developed, tested and made available, it is vital that we follow the science that is available to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

Remember the three W’s – wear a mask, watch your distance and wash your hands. Get your flu shot. Together we can get through a new and different kind of flu season, one that now includes COVID-19.