Who should get a flu shot this year?


This week (Dec. 6-12) is National Influenza Vaccination Week. It is a reminder that there is still time to get your flu shot.

The annual flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months of age or older, with rare exceptions, because it is an effective way to decrease flu illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths. Healthcare providers should use every opportunity during the influenza vaccination season to administer influenza vaccines to all eligible persons. These include:

  • Essential workers – including health care personnel (including nursing home, long-term care facility and pharmacy staff) and other critical infrastructure workers
  • Persons at risk for serious influenza complications – including infants and young children, children with neurological conditions, pregnant women, adults aged 65 or older, and other persons with underlying medical conditions.

If people are suspected or confirmed COVID-19, regardless of whether they have symptoms, influenza vaccines should be deferred (postponed) until they have met the criteria to discontinue their isolation. While mild illness is not a contraindication to the flu vaccine, vaccination visits for these people should be postponed to avoid exposing healthcare personnel and other patients to communicable illnesses. When scheduling or confirming appointments for vaccinations, patients should be instructed to notify the provider’s office or clinic in advance if they currently have or develop any symptoms compatible with COVID-19 or other infectious illnesses.

You should get a flu shot this year, particularly with a pandemic underway. The vaccination will be very important to reduce flu because it can help reduce the overall impact of respiratory illnesses on the population and thus lessen the resulting burden on the healthcare system during the pandemic. Efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, such as stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders, have led to the decreased use of routine preventive medical services, including immunization services.

Ensuring that people continue or start getting routine vaccinations during the pandemic is essential for protecting people and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases and outbreaks, including the flu. A flu vaccine can provide adults with a variety of health benefits, including preventing the flu, reducing the severity of illness if you do get the flu, and reducing your risk of flu-associated hospitalization.

While it’s not possible to say with certainty what will happen in the fall and winter, the CDC believes it’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be circulating. It is also possible to have both the flu (or other respiratory illnesses) and COVID-19 at the same time. Experts are still studying how common this combined illness can be. Flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses but are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2). Flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses

Because the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 can be similar, it can be difficult to differentiate between them based on symptoms alone. Testing may be needed to confirm a diagnosis. While flu and COVID-19 share many similar characteristics, there are some key differences between the two, such as losing taste or smell with COVID-19, COVID-19 symptoms taking longer to develop, and the way in which the COVID-19 virus spreads.

For more information, reference the CDC’s chart. Flu and COVID-19 can both result in serious illnesses, including hospitalization or death. Can a flu vaccine protect you from COVID-19? If I have already had COVID-19 do I still need a flu shot? Getting a flu vaccine does not protect against COVID-19, however, the flu vaccination has many important health benefits, including being known to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death.

In addition, prior infection with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 or flu does not protect someone from future flu infections. The best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated every year.

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