3 Reasons to Get the Flu Shot this Year
As we approach fall, flu season is on the horizon, and the ever-present SARS-CoV-2 virus of COVID-19 has many people questioning how to best protect themselves from falling ill in the colder months to come.
Will this year’s flu be amplified, less severe, or similar to previous years? It is too soon to know, but the best way to protect yourself from the influenza virus is to get your flu shot as early in the season as you can.
“This may be the most important year to get a flu shot. It’ll protect you, save lives, and preserve healthcare resources needed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in your community.”
Louis DePalo, MD, Medical Director
See below for at least 3 reasons why you should get your flu shot this year.
1. Protect Yourself Against the Flu and Spreading it to Others
Like COVID-19, the flu is highly contagious and can lead to complications similar to COVID-19, such as pneumonia, respiratory failure, or even death. The CDC estimates that the flu was associated with more than 35.5 million illnesses and more than 34,000 deaths in the United States during the 2018–2019 influenza season.1
2. Avoid Complications of Flu + COVID-19
If you become infected with COVID-19, getting the influenza virus as well can make a difficult situation even worse. The combination of these two infections can make it more difficult to recover and can exacerbate some of the most serious symptoms, including difficulty breathing. Additionally, there is concern that the confluence of flu season with COVID-19 could overwhelm our healthcare system. Getting a flu shot can help reduce this risk.
3. Help Eliminate Confusion of Symptoms
It can be difficult to distinguish between the flu and COVID-19. The symptoms are almost exactly the same and could result in confusion as doctors try to diagnose patients.
|Fever and chills||✔||✔|
|Shortness of breath or difficult breathing||✔||✔|
|Muscle or body aches||✔||✔|
|Congestion or runny nose||✔||✔|
|New loss of taste or smell||✔|
Indicators that May Help Determine Flu vs COVID-19
The flu shot doesn’t guarantee you won’t get the flu. However the CDC estimates the vaccine typically reduces serious cases of the flu by 50% to 60% each year.2 For those who get the flu, even though they may have gotten the vaccine, the shot may help reduce the severity of the illness and avoid hospitalizations.
To help you better determine the few differences between COVID-19 and the flu, see the table below, which distinguishes differences in symptom onset and the contagious period.
|Symptom onset||Typically more abrupt with a person developing symptoms 1 to 4 days after infection.||Gradual with a person developing symptoms 2-14 days after infection, with an average of 5 days.|
|Contagious Period||Most people are contagious for about 1 day before they show symptoms. Older children and adults appear to be most contagious during the initial 3-4 days of their illness but many remain contagious for about 7 days. Infants and people with weakened immune systems can be contagious longer.||It’s possible for people to spread the virus for about 2 days before experiencing symptoms and remain contagious for at least 10 days after symptoms first appeared. If someone is asymptomatic or their symptoms go away, it’s possible to remain contagious for at least 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19.|
Schedule a Flu Shot Appointment
Flu shots are available at The Health Center. Members can contact our Personal Health Navigators by chat through the member portal or by calling 646.819.5100 to schedule a flu shot.
Want to learn more about vaccines?
For a more in depth conversation on vaccines, see our interview with Dr. Peter Palese, microbiologist and Professor and Chair of the Department of Microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Health System, and an expert in the field of RNA viruses such as influenza and SARS-CoV-2.
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