If you’re one of more than half of Americans who put off getting an annual flu shot, you’re not alone. This year, experts are saying it’s more important than ever to get one. Flu season typically peaks from December to February, so there’s still time to get the seasonal flu shot to protect yourself. In fact, it might be the best way to protect yourself this winter with COVID-19 cases currently surging across the U.S.
Earlier this year, health experts predicted that COVID-19 cases would increase as winter temperatures dropped and people started spending more time indoors. According to Worldometers, U.S. COVID-19 cases have been hovering between 80,000 to 100,000+, with new cases per day in the last week. It’s clear that this virus is not going anywhere.
Why Get a Flu Shot?
If the flu shot doesn’t protect you against COVID-19, why get it? It’s a question many people are asking. The answer is simple: Because you don’t want to get both at the same time. The seasonal flu shot protects you from strains of the influenza virus that will be most prominent that year. These strains are identified by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) before the flu season. The CDC estimates that flu vaccines reduce the need to go to the doctor with the flu by 40 to 60 percent. It can also help reduce the severity of your illness if you do get sick.
While the flu shot won’t protect you against COVID-19, it’s important to get it because of COVID-19. “In this COVID flu season that’s coming, it’s even more important to get a flu shot because it’s going to be hard to tell the difference between flu and COVID,” says Emily Landon, Executive Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control at the University of Chicago Medicine. Getting both infections at the same time can wreak havoc on your respiratory system. One study done earlier this year in England showed having both COVID-19 and the flu doubled the risk of death in hospitalized patients. So, don’t risk it.
Here’s another reason: getting a flu shot will most likely be FREE. The vast majority of health care plans cover flu shots and the Affordable Care Act insurance plans are required to cover the flu shot for free with no co-payment. Be sure to check before you go that the provider is approved.
How to Get a Flu Shot ASAP
There are plenty of ways to get a flu shot quickly and easily without going to your health care provider. The “shot” also comes as a nasal spray, which can be given to most people age 2-49. Use the CDC lookup tool (below) to find the vaccine of your choice at a location nearest you.
Wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth is still the best way to protect yourself from both the seasonal flu and COVID-19 but getting a flu shot will give you the best protection.
For more information on who should get a flu vaccine and medical considerations, refer to the CDC Guidelines here.