Protect yourself: 3 reasons why you should get a flu shot during a pandemic
We’ve all received a crash course in infectious diseases this year, but as winter approaches, it’s important to remember the coronavirus pandemic isn’t the only public health threat on the horizon. Flu season is upon us, and it poses deadly health risks to Americans every year.
We could all use a little extra protection these days. The flu vaccine is a safe and effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones from getting the flu. Here are Kaiser Permanente’s three reasons why you should get the flu shot during a pandemic.
1. Influenza still matters in a pandemic
While Covid-19 has gained attention for its mortality rate, influenza is also deadly and places a considerable strain on the healthcare system every year.
Influenza viruses change every year causing millions of Americans to contract the flu every fall and winter. Over the past decade, the CDC estimates influenza has resulted in between 9 million to 45 million illness, 140,000-810,000 hospitalizations and 12,000-61,000 deaths each year.
This flu season presents a unique risk because you can get the flu and Covid-19 at the same time; that’s why getting your flu shot is more important than ever. Both the flu and Covid-19 are a substantial threat for at-risk populations such as those 65 and older, people with chronic conditions, children aged 5 and younger, and pregnant women.
2. Flu shots help you stay safe
The flu vaccine helps your body make antibodies to fight the influenza virus. It takes two weeks for a flu shot to start working and help protect you from the flu.
Months before each flu season, health officials and researchers around the world collaborate to determine which new influenza strains are likely to spread in the fall. Armed with data, each country determines which specific strains to include in their vaccines. In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration has the final say.
Usually, the U.S. vaccine is designed to protect against three or four influenza viruses. Recent studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that, on average, the flu vaccine can reduce the risk of flu by 40% to 60%.
Effectiveness can vary based on how well the vaccine matches the strain of the virus each year. But even if you get the flu, the vaccine can still help make your symptoms less severe.
Flu vaccines are recommended for most people, although children younger than 6 months of age and those with specific allergies or a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome are advised not to receive a flu shot. If you are unsure about whether you should receive a shot, please check with your doctor.
3. Getting a shot is easy
Flu season is already in full swing, so don’t wait. Getting your flu shot now is an easy way to stay as healthy as possible. Kaiser Permanente members can schedule an appointment for a no-cost flu shot at any of its 33 drive-thru, walk-up or in-center facilities conveniently located throughout Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. — making it easy and safe for you to get. Most people, including Kaiser Permanente members, also have the option of getting a flu shot at various retailers now through the end of the year. If you’re visiting a retailer for the flu shot, make sure they are participating with your insurance.
What to do if you’re feeling sick
Since the flu vaccine protects against three or four strains of the flu each year, it is possible to get the flu after receiving a shot, especially if you just received it. Most cases are mild, but it’s important to keep a close eye on your symptoms.
Please seek medical attention immediately if you experience cold- and flu-like symptoms, especially if you have a health condition that increases your risk from both Covid-19 and the flu. Because Covid-19 and the flu have similar symptoms, it’s important to receive evaluation and treatment as soon as possible and take steps to reduce further transmission, such as wearing a mask, washing your hands and social distancing. Kaiser Permanente members can receive a no-appointment e-visit if you are short on time or need non-urgent medical care. Members can fill out a short questionnaire about their symptoms, and a Kaiser Permanente physician-led care team will get back to you with a care plan, usually within four hours.
Although Covid-19 will continue to dominate headlines for some time, influenza remains a looming threat to public health. A flu shot is your best defense. Get yours today.
For more information on the flu, visit kp.org/flu.