It’s Flu Season – Do I Need to Get Vaccinated?

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I know, we just started to feel like we could see a future that didn’t contain face masks and social distancing and then a new COVID variant raised its ugly head and now our focus is on how to control Omicron. It seems like worrying about getting a flu shot will fade into the background while we deal with this new problem. Well, I’m here to convince you that getting your flu shot should be really high on your immediate priority list.

The focus of my blogs at Seniors Speak Out has always been to advocate for improving the health of older Americans. I realize that if you followed every guide and suggestion for those 65 and older, you would be busy every waking hour and still not get everything done. What we need to be doing is evaluating each bit of guidance as it applies to our own health and situation and deciding which ones get priority. My job right now is to convince you to put getting your flu shot very high on that list.

Now, at the risk of dictating priorities, I will say that getting your COVID vaccination and booster shot should be at the top of the list. Getting the shot has proven worldwide to save lives, especially among older adults. If you haven’t already, go get your COVID shot now. It is also a fact that the flu shot has proven over decades to save lives. It is hard to gather accurate statistics on how many people get the flu, but the CDC’s broad range estimates are that between 2010 and 2020 the flu has annually resulted in 9 million – 41 million illnesses, 140,000 – 710,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 – 52,000 deaths. Yet, with all these facts, less than 50% of the adults in America get their flu shot. The fact is, many of the people these statistics represent are over 65. It seems that just like COVID, older people bear the brunt of this disease, and this has been happening for decades.

COVID has been taking our time and focus and it is a serious disease, but it shouldn’t stop us from doing the other things we need to do to keep us healthy. While this new variant is a concern right now there isn’t anything we can do besides getting vaccinated and taking prudent precautions. There is something we can do right now to help us avoid the dangers of catching the flu. . . get vaccinated.

One thing that might make you hesitate in getting your flu shot are all the rules concerning the COVID pandemic and the COVID vaccines and boosters. Here are some answers to questions that you might have concerning flu vaccinations and COVID.

Does getting a flu shot increase my chances of catching COVID?

No. There is no evidence that getting a flu vaccination raises your risk of getting sick from COVID-19 or any other coronavirus.

If I wear a mask and social distance do I still need the flu vaccine?

Yes. Wearing a mask and physical distancing can help protect you and others from respiratory viruses, like flu and the virus that causes COVID-19. However, the best way to reduce your risk of flu illness and its potentially serious complications is for everyone 6 months and older to get a flu vaccine each year

Can I get the COVID vaccine and a flu vaccine at the same time?

Yes, you can get a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine at the same time. This includes the COVID booster shot. Two months ago, I got my COVID booster shot in one arm and my flu shot in the other. It was quick and I had no side effects.

If I think I have COVID-19 should I get my flu shot?

No. Flu vaccination should be deferred for people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, whether or not they have symptoms, until they have met the criteria to discontinue their isolation. Flu shots for these people should be postponed to avoid exposing healthcare personnel and other patients to the virus that causes COVID-19.

If you have any questions concerning the flu vaccination, don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare professional. Do whatever it takes to get yourself comfortable with getting your flu shot. While the data has been difficult to obtain due to COVID, the CDC estimates that last year the number of people who got the flu was the lowest on record, probably due to the wearing of masks and the reduction of human contact. They are quick to point out that they expect this year to be above average due to resumption of human interaction and the expected reluctance to get the flu vaccination. While many of us have been confused with how to combat COVID and its variants, there should be no confusion about getting your flu shot. If we were to reach CDC’s goal of 70% of people vaccinated, we would have a chance to have an even lower number get the flu this year.

Get vaccinated against COVID and get your flu shot, positive steps we can take now to stay healthy.

Best, Thair

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