Flu season during a pandemic: Will getting a flu shot help?

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Utah (ABC4 News) — The coronavirus pandemic has caused countless health concerns for people around the globe. As fall nears and the fear of seasonal illness draws closer, some researchers project the virus will continue to trend upward in Utah.

State Epidemiologist, Dr. Dunn advised all Utahns get a flu vaccine this season. “We are fortunate to actually have a flu vaccine, so it’s really important, now more than ever, to get vaccinated against the flu this fall,” Dr. Dunn stated in a press conference addressing the state. Dr. Dunn said it isn’t too early to get the flu vaccine.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, flu cases become more common in the fall and winter months of the year. The flu virus circulates year-round but peaks in the cooler seasons.

In addition to the flu, other respiratory viruses tend to circulate at the same time. Other respiratory viruses can include rhinovirus or the “common cold”, respiratory syncytial virus, RSV, which is most common in young children. Added to this year’s list of respiratory illnesses to be aware of…coronavirus.

According to the CDC getting this year’s flu shot or flu vaccination is especially important for those who qualify as high risk for COVID-19, the CDC says if you are considered high risk for COVID-19 it’s likely you are high risk for the flu too. “If you are at high risk, it is especially important for you to get a flu vaccine this year,” the CDC’s website states.

Wondering if the flu vaccine will protect you against COVID-19? “Getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, however flu vaccination has many other important benefits,” stated on the CDC’s website. Over the years, flu vaccines have shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death. The CDC says the choice to get a flu shot in the fall of 2020 “will be more important than ever, not only to reduce your risk from flu but also to help conserve potentially scarce health care resources.”

This year, the CDC is promoting flu vaccination during the pandemic. The CDC said they hope to maximize flu vaccination by increasing availability of the vaccine, including purchasing an additional 2 million doses.

For the 2020-2021 season, manufacturers hope to provide as many as 194-198 million doses of the flu vaccine, breaking the record of producing 175 million doses during the 2019-2020 flu season.

The CDC warns those who have tested positive for COVID-19 to not get their flu shot until they have completed their isolation. “Vaccination should be deferred (postponed) for people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, regardless of whether they have symptoms, until they have met the criteria to discontinue their isolation. While mild illness is not a contraindication to flu vaccination, vaccination visits for these people should be postponed to avoid exposing healthcare personnel and other patients to the virus that causes COVID-19.”

While it’s impossible to say what the fall and winter of 2020 hold the CDC said they believe it’s likely that the flu viruses and the virus that causes coronavirus will both be spreading.

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