Getting the flu vaccine is more important than ever this yearOctober 13, 2021
Oct. 11, 2021
Lucienne Zenieh, M.D.
Last year, we had a very mild flu season. Experts think this was because of strict social distancing and masking guidelines. All of these protocols we had in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19 really reduced the spread of the flu. But because of this, we weren’t exposed to the flu last year, so it’s likely that we now have reduced immunity against it. That’s why an early and severe flu season has been predicted.
Getting the flu vaccine (and the COVID-19 vaccine) is the best way to protect yourself this fall. Those who are unvaccinated are at risk of contracting severe cases of COVID-19 and the flu. If you contract them at the same time, or even around the same time, it could take a huge toll on your health.
Both the flu and COVID-19 are respiratory viruses, which means they both affect the lungs. Getting both of these infections is dangerous because it could overwhelm your lungs and your whole immune system. Symptoms could be severe, and probably leading to hospitalization and death.
Protecting kids from viral infections this fall
Along with the flu, cases of RSV—a viral infection that affects kids; especially small children and babies—were minimal last year, thanks to masking and social distancing. But this year, cases of RSV began to rise in August, instead of the usual fall to spring season.
RSV came early this year because most of the population didn’t get exposed to it last year, so now we’re seeing an early surge. And COVID-19’s Delta variant is affecting kids more than the original strain of COVID-19, so now kids (especially kids younger than 12 who can’t yet receive the COVID-19 vaccine) are facing the flu, COVID-19 and RSV. These are three respiratory viruses that can overwhelm the lungs and immune system, and kids are going to school in person, getting more exposure. It’s a high-risk situation. Protecting them with the flu vaccine is so important.
What to know before getting the flu vaccine
No vaccine is 100% effective, but even if you do get the flu, the vaccine will prevent you from having severe symptoms. You might have symptoms like congestion or even a fever, but it will lower your risk for getting severe symptoms and serious complications.
Here, a few tips to getting the flu vaccine:
- Get your flu vaccine as soon as you can—before the end of October — so that you’ll be covered for the duration of the flu season.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you can get the flu vaccine at the same time as your COVID-19 vaccine. You won’t have worsened side effects, there won’t be any interaction between the two vaccines, and it won’t affect your immune protection.
- Do you have an egg allergy? According to the CDC, if your egg allergy is mild, you can still get the flu vaccine. (The flu vaccine contains a small amount of egg protein.) You can also ask your doctor about receiving Flucelvax, an alternative flu vaccine that does not contain egg. Learn more about the CDC’s recommendations for those with egg allergies here.