Why Getting a Flu Shot is Critical Amid COVID-19
A global pandemic has shifted our culture, leaving many of us to wonder what information is accurate, how to preserve our health, and when things will return to normal. While we don’t have all the answers, we do know that flu season may be particularly brutal this year. Getting a flu shot should always make your top-fall-priorities checklist, but this year it’s especially critical.
The CDC recommends that people get an annual flu vaccine starting at 6 months of age.
Getting a flu shot is even more important in the 2020 flu season. It can help reduce the overall impact of respiratory illnesses (looking at you, COVID-19) and therefore, reduce the potential burden on our healthcare system amid a global pandemic.
How Getting a Flu Shot Helps YOU
Coronavirus (officially named SARS-CoV-2) has brought to light the importance of protecting our own health, as well as others’. Despite common flu vaccine myths, getting a flu shot offers individual health benefits including:
- Minimizing your chances of getting sick with the flu
- Lessening the severity of illness if you do get the flu
- Reducing your risk of a flu-related hospitalization (and death)
This last point is where the urgency comes in. As coronavirus cases continue to rise by the tens-of-thousands every day, hospitals persevere in treating COVID-infected patients.
Going to the hospital because of the flu increases your risk of getting COVID-19, and takes staff, supplies, and time away from treating COVID-infected patients.
While getting a flu shot will not protect you from coronavirus, it can prevent serious side-effects of the flu.
In turn, this helps conserve potentially limited healthcare resources.
How Getting a Flu Shot Helps OTHERS
Hopefully, this global pandemic has taught us all that we not only have a responsibility to maintain our own health, but also to take preventative steps to protect others as well.
Getting a flu shot offers community-wide health benefits including:
- Protecting people around you, especially those who are most vulnerable to serious flu illness (like babies and young children, older people, and those with certain chronic health conditions)
- Limiting the number of influenza cases in the community (known as “herd-immunity” or “community-immunity”)
- Freeing up healthcare resources for COVID-19 treatment that might typically be spent on influenza treatment
Despite the CDC’s and other health organizations’ best efforts, we cannot immunize 100% of our communities with the flu vaccine.
Getting a flu shot is an act of dedication to your community and everyone around you.
Let’s Compare the Flu and Coronavirus
There is a lot of confusion surrounding the flu and COVID-19. Namely, what symptoms to look for, who is most at risk, whether you can get it twice, and the number of lives each takes.
The CDC maintains a helpful chart comparing the similarities and differences between the flu and COVID-19. We’ll touch on a few here, and recommend checking out the CDC’s table for more info!
What are the symptoms?
The flu and coronavirus present very similarly in terms of symptoms. With either illness, you can expect anywhere from zero symptoms (asymptomatic) to all of the below.
- Fever (or feverish/chills)
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle pain or body aches
- Some people may experience vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults
How they are different
Coronavirus may also include changes in (or loss of) taste and/or smell. A test may confirm if you have COVID-19, but you should CALL your healthcare provider for direction if you think you have been exposed to or are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.
Who is at risk?
Those most at risk for severe illness from both the flu and coronavirus include older adults, people with certain underlying medical conditions, and pregnant women.
How they are different
The flu presents a greater risk to healthy children compared to COVID-19. However, babies and young children with underlying medical conditions are at an increased risk for both the flu and coronavirus.
When a school-aged child contracts COVID-19, they are at higher risk of developing Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), an uncommon but severe complication of COVID-19.
Can you get the flu and/or COVID-19 multiple times?
Because the flu vaccine protects against the four most common strains of the virus each year, it is effective in up to 70% of cases. This means you may still get the flu and you can get it again.
As we mentioned above, getting a flu shot reduces the severity of your illness if you do get it!
Coronavirus is still being researched and human immunity to the virus is unclear. It is best to maintain CDC-recommended precautionary measures like staying home, social distancing, and wearing a face mask.
How deadly is each illness?
Both the flu and coronavirus can result in serious illness, including cases that lead to hospitalization or death. However, COVID-19 appears to be deadlier than the flu.
The flu claims an estimated 12,000 to 79,000 American lives annually.
Since its inception in the United States, coronavirus has taken 146,000 American lives (as of 9/3/2020).
Coronavirus deaths are still being researched, but this illness does appear to be more deadly than the seasonal flu. Researchers continue to gather and analyze data, which will paint a more accurate picture over time.
For now, all we can do is take action to avoid vaccine-preventable diseases (like the flu) and work toward accepting the uncertainty in which we live.
Where to get more information
Ready to protect yourself and your community against the flu? Give us a call. We’ve got the quadrivalent flu vaccine you need to stay safe and healthy!