Influenza (flu) during the COVID-19 Pandemic, and Why it is Different
When COVID first arrived in the U.S., researchers and scientists around the world rushed to find a solution to the pandemic.
While the flu has stayed the same, circumstances have changed. This year, more than ever, it is critical that everyone over 6 months of age get their flu shot.
Why is it important to get a flu vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Any effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, such as Colorado’s stay-at-home order, has led to a decrease in preventive medicine, such as immunizations and annual exams, and urgent care services. As healthcare experts, AFM wants to stress the importance for people to continue or begin routine vaccinations, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, because it is essential for protecting people and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases and outbreaks, such as the flu. If the community receives their flu vaccine, it should prevent unnecessary medical visits and/or hospitalizations if they were to contract the illness. The purpose of the vaccine is to increase your immunity towards the virus which leads to less serious reactions. The hope would be to reduce the strain on the healthcare systems and avoid an influx of flu patients to allow more focus of care to be on COVID-19 positive patients and other emergent care patients. It is also important to keep urgent and emergency services available for COVID-19 patients and other emergency care needs.
Getting your flu shot is also important during the COVID-19 pandemic because it helps to reduce the burden of respiratory illnesses (cough, shortness of breath). This is critical to keep vulnerable populations safe and healthy and keep our health care systems from being overwhelmed.
A flu vaccine may also provide several individual health benefits, including keeping you from getting sick with flu, reducing the severity of your illness if you do get the flu, and reducing your risk of a flu-associated hospitalization.
Who should get their flu vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Getting a flu shot is especially recommended for:
- Essential workers: Including healthcare personnel (including nursing home, long-term care facility, and pharmacy staff) and other critical infrastructure workforce.
- Persons at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19: Including adults aged 65 years and older, residents in a nursing home or long-term care facility, and persons of all ages with certain underlying medical conditions. Severe illness from COVID-19 has been observed to disproportionately affect members of certain racial/ethnic minority groups as well.
- Persons at increased risk for serious influenza complications: Including infants and young children, children with neurologic conditions, pregnant women, adults aged 65 years and older, and other persons with certain underlying medical conditions
When should I get a flu shot?
In order to get the best protection from flu vaccination, stop by one of our clinics in September and October. If your flu shot is administered too early, the effectiveness of the shot may wear off before peak flu season. It is not recommended for individuals to receive a second flu shot within the same flu season. Vaccinations after October can still be beneficial as long as the flu virus is still circulating.
Should a flu vaccine be given to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19?
No. People who are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 should delay getting a flu shot, regardless of whether they have symptoms, until they have quarantined for 14 days or have had no symptoms and/or a fever for 72 hours. While a mild illness is usually not a deterrent to receive a flu shot, these visits for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients should be postponed to avoid exposing healthcare personnel and other patients to the virus that causes COVID-19. When scheduling or confirming appointments for vaccination, patients should be instructed to notify the provider’s office or clinic in advance if they currently have or develop any symptoms of COVID-19.
A prior infection with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 or flu does not protect someone from future flu infections. The best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated every year.
Where should I get my flu shot?
It is important that you see your primary care provider or visit the same practice when you get your flu shot. Pharmacies and other flu shot clinics may not share records with your provider which could delay care in the future. AFM is hosting several flu shot clinics this year to help meet the demand and to follow social distancing guidelines. Check them out here.