Fall in the U.S. means saying goodbye summer and hello pumpkin spice season. It also means that flu season is quickly approaching. Even in a normal year, flu season can be worrisome because even though it’s common, it can bring with it serious complications. This year, in the middle of a pandemic, the situation is extra tricky.
The COVID-19 connection to influenza (flu) vaccines
Public health officials are expecting that this fall and winter may mean a surge of new COVID-19 cases. And as the past several months have demonstrated, the pandemic has put a huge strain on our medical system, with many healthcare systems and hospitals struggling to keep up with the need. Even a mild flu season means millions of cases, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and an overwhelmed medical system. Some experts also worry that because our lives have been upended in so many ways by the pandemic, that many folks might skip their flu shots this year.
With so much uncertain right now, there is one thing we know for sure: the flu vaccine is one of the strongest tools we have to reduce the spread of the flu and protect ourselves and each other. The more people who get vaccinated against the flu, the better it is for everyone. “Herd immunity” is a term used to describe the concept of a large number of people in a community being vaccinated against a certain disease, when that number is high enough, it helps to prevent the spread of those germs through a community.
What the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has to say about the flu vaccine
The CDC recommends that most everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu vaccine, especially people who are at high risk of experiencing flu complications, including young children, pregnant people, and older adults. There are only very rare occasions where getting a flu shot isn’t recommended for certain people — like very young babies, those with certain very serious allergies, or people with weakened immune systems. This is why it’s all the more important that people who can get vaccinated do — when vaccination rates are high enough, folks who can’t get vaccinated are still protected.
So with flu season upon us, make sure that you schedule your flu vaccine now if you haven’t already. And encourage your friends and family to do the same. There are a number of different ways you can do so. You can call your healthcare provider to make an appointment, visit a community clinic, or get a flu vaccine at your local pharmacy. It’s a powerful tool to protect us all, and this year, that’s more important than ever.
- Jan Hoffman. “Fearing a ‘Twindemic,’ Health Experts Push Urgently for Flu Shots.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company, September 2 2020. Retrieved October 7 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/16/health/coronavirus-flu-vaccine-twindemic.html.
- “Frequently Asked Influenza (Flu) Questions: 2020-2021 Season.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, October 7 2020. Retrieved October 7 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2020-2021.htm.