The 3 reasons you need to get a flu shot this year all have to do with COVID-19

The majority of immunologists contend that getting a flu shot is absolutely imperative during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The answer to the question ‘Why should you get a flu vaccine?’ is the same this year as it is every year. But there are some additional reasons why it’s extra beneficial to get [it] this year,” Emily Landon, executive medical director of infection prevention and control at the University of Chicago Medicine recently explained in a release. “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.”

Moreover, there isn’t any meaningful literature on the health consequences of being infected with influenza and the novel coronavirus at the same time.

Any broad estimation is sure to be a grim one, saying nothing of the limited capacity of medical facilities at the present.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 5% to 20% of Americans contract the flu each year. Of these, 200,000 are hospitalized and between 3,000 and 49,000 succumb.

Still, only 45% of Americans received flu shots during the 2018-2019 season. And although this figure was much higher among children between six months and 17 years of age (62%), medical professionals are aspiring to improve both statistics before the end of next year.

So why should you get a flu shot before November?

  1. We don’t know how influenza interacts with Sars-CoV-2
  2. Medical facilities are too overwhelmed to adequately treat 200,000 preventable flu cases
  3. Communities that are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 are also disproportionately affected by the flu

Safety of Flu Vaccine during COVID-19

Alongside the lingering misconceptions surrounding flu-shots, some new ones premised by the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19 have emerged.

The hazy consensus suggests that receiving a flu shot may in some way compound symptoms associated with COVID-19 or increase one’s chance of contracting it.

Neither has been substantiated. In fact, a new study published in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Science directly repudiates both.

After recruiting 13,000 patients, each was tested for COVID-19 at a clinic in Cleveland, Ohio between March and April.

More than 4,000 participants received flu shots last year and 9,082 did not. These cohorts yielded no positive correlation between influenza vaccination and COVID-19 incidence.

“Our findings suggest that we should proceed as usual with our vaccination strategy for global influenza this flu season,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Joe Zein, a pulmonologist at Cleveland Clinic, said in a University release. “Getting the annual flu vaccine remains the best safeguard against the influenza virus — both for yourself and the people around you.”

The CDC is urging people to get vaccinated before the flu season begins.

On balance, it takes about two weeks after a flu shot for someone to develop antibodies that fight the virus off. At the latest, individuals should try to receive a shot before the end of October.

In the US the most flu activity is halved between fall and winter with cases spiking dramatically before November, then peaking between December and February. It’s not uncommon for positive cases to trudge on into May.

“We have already seen the stress that COVID-19 can put on our hospitals and resources,” Dr. Zein continues. “While we’re not yet sure how flu season will affect COVID-19 susceptibility and infections, we strongly advise people to get their influenza vaccines, both for their individual health and the collective health of our care systems.”