The COVID-19 pandemic is no reason to skip your flu shot for 2020. Here’s what the experts have to say about this year’s flu vaccine.
In This Article:
Flu Shot 2020: Everything You Need to Know
Vaccine Hesitancy and COVID-19
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, public health officials were already battling against vaccine hesitancy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that only 45% of Americans got the flu shot in 2019.
The COVID-19 pandemic may complicate vaccine issues even further. Since the first confirmed case in late January, many states and localities issued stay-at-home orders to reduce community transmission.
On March 13, 2020, the White House declared a national emergency concerning the COVID-19 outbreak. Even as states slowly open up, the CDC continues to recommend disease-prevention measures such as social distancing and masking-up to prevent further transmission.
With these guidelines in place, it may seem counterintuitive to leave the safety of your home just to get a flu shot. However, health experts believe that it’s even more critical to get the flu shot in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Importance of Getting a Flu Shot
Many Americans wonder: is the flu vaccine even worth it at this point? Especially if they have adopted the new normal of social distancing, wearing a mask, and regular hand-washing.
With these lifestyle changes, they’ve already reduced the risk of getting the flu. Public health experts believe that getting vaccines is a great way to mitigate risks during a pandemic.
It’s essential to reduce the risk of severe sickness during any pandemic to avoid the need for medical attention. This is why it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and boost your immune system.
One way to boost the immune system is to get the appropriate vaccines. It’s important to note that the flu vaccine can’t directly prevent anyone from getting COVID-19.
Hospitals may not be able to cater to both COVID-19 cases and the usual surge of flu season patients. This may lead to a deadly shortage of intensive care units and ventilators in hospitals.
Possible Flu and COVID-19 Complications
Apart from medical resources, the flu and coronavirus also share similar symptoms. In its early stages, it may be difficult to distinguish them.
The treatment and quarantine protocols are also different for COVID-19 and the flu. So it’s vital to get the diagnosis right to prevent transmission.
It’s also important to remember that the coronavirus is still a relatively new disease, and doctors are continuing to learn about its long-term effects. They don’t know if it increases the risk of severe flu illness.
They also don’t know what would happen if an individual gets both the coronavirus and the flu at the same time. The flu in itself is already potentially problematic and life-threatening. If you add the risk of getting the coronavirus to the mix, it might be more problematic.
Lessons from Australia
There was a drastic decrease in laboratory-confirmed flu cases this year in Australia. Australian health officials believe that the following factors contributed to the significant improvement:
- Increase in disease prevention awareness
- School closures
- Social distancing measures
- Changes in health-seeking behavior
Apart from these factors, there was also a substantial improvement in the number of Australians who got flu vaccines. More than 7.3 million flu vaccines were administered in May 2020.
This is a large leap from the previous years. 4.5 million Australians got the flu vaccine by May 2019, and only 3.5 million Australians got it by May 2018.
Experts believe that these factors help decrease overall flu cases. More importantly, they also help decrease flu-related hospitalizations during the pandemic.
Best Time to Get Flu Shot
It’s important to get the timing of the flu shot correct. Getting the flu shot too early can be problematic because it may not be as effective in the tail-end of the flu season.
According to the CDC, the best time to get the flu shot is in September or October. This usually allows for antibodies to remain in your system until the flu season’s peak in February.
CDC Vaccination Guidelines During COVID-19
The CDC offers vaccination guidelines during pandemics. Here are some of the important points:
- Routine vaccines, such as the flu vaccine, shouldn’t be delayed because of the pandemic.
- Vaccinations should be delayed for individuals who have or are suspected of having COVID-19. They can get their vaccines once they complete the full isolation period.
- To help minimize unnecessary exposure to COVID-19, healthcare centers should screen individuals for COVID-19 symptoms before their vaccination appointment.
- Healthcare facilities should be set-up to promote social distancing and limit physical contact between individuals.
- Patients may also be required to use cloth face coverings during the appointment.
- Healthcare staff should follow infection prevention and control protocols such as practicing hand hygiene, wearing a facemask and using eye protection.
These guidelines help minimize the risk for both healthcare workers and patients. Apart from this, many healthcare centers maximize innovative set-ups, such as:
- drive-through vaccinations
- Mobile clinics
- Curbside vaccinations
These set-ups are usually safer for everyone, especially when it’s in an open-air setting. Experts believe that patients don’t have too much to worry about once they arrive at their healthcare centers with these guidelines.
Patients should take extra care in the commute to and from these medical facilities. If you’re unsure how, when, and where to get a flu shot, talking to a doctor might help.
You can consult a doctor via telemedicine to clarify your questions. Through telemedicine, you can also get screened by a doctor for COVID-19 from your home.
It might be tempting to skip the flu shot this year, especially if you’ve been home for most of the pandemic. In this pandemic, though, experts believe that the flu vaccine benefits outweigh the potential risks.
What’s stopping you from getting your flu shot? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.