Fall Health: The Flu Shot and COVID-19 Boosters
Here we are again, entering another flu season with the COVID-19 virus – now with a more contagious variant – still present in our communities. Fortunately, we are in a better place this year:
- Nearly 70% of the New York City population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine
- COVID-19 testing is readily available
- We have the prior year’s flu season experience to lean on
- Common practices of wearing a mask, practicing good hand hygiene, and social distancing (when possible) can help protect you from COVID-19 and the flu
With all that said, many businesses are back open, children are in school, domestic and international travel is underway, and we are gathering again with our friends and family -all great activities for our mental health and allowing us to feel connected again. However, it creates more opportunity for the viruses to spread.
To protect yourself, your colleagues and your loved ones, we highly suggest you get your flu shot early in the season.
Unlike the COVID-19 vaccine, where we are just now starting to get data on how long the protection lasts, flu shots are built to protect you for at least 6 months post vaccination. Therefore, it is recommended you get your flu vaccine in early fall – before the flu season has had a chance to spread and late enough where you can be protected well into the following year, when flu is still present. Anyone can get the flu, but similar to COVID-19, it is more dangerous for some people. Infants and young children, people 65 years and older, pregnant people, and people with certain health conditions or a weakened immune system are at greatest risk of flu complications.
Like the COVID-19 vaccine, the flu shot cannot guarantee you won’t get the flu, however it is your best defense. The CDC estimates the vaccine typically reduces serious cases of the flu by 50% to 60% each year. 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.
Lastly, it is important to note that many of the symptoms between COVID-19 and the flu are similar. To date, “loss of taste and/or smell” is the one symptom that differentiates COVID-19 from the flu, but we can’t rely entirely on it given not everyone that gets COVID-19 experiences the symptom. It is most important that if you are not feeling well, that you please stay home and contact your health care provider.
Can you get the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine booster together?
COVID-19 vaccine boosters are in the process of being approved for select individuals who were fully vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. If you become eligible for the booster around the same time you receive your flu shot, the CDC has advised both the booster and the flu vaccine can be administered around or at the same time, in separate arms. If concerned about cumulative side effects, you can choose to schedule the vaccines days apart.
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