Flu season is upon us again. In the middle of a coronavirus pandemic, getting a flu shot is critical.

Why is the flu vaccine important?

A flu vaccine will lower your risk of contracting the virus that causes the flu and helps to protect those around you. What we know from the data is that it reduces risk of getting the flu and it reduces the severity of the flu if you do become infected. While it's not 100% effective, if you don't get the shot, you are missing an opportunity to reduce risk for you and your loved ones.

What is the difference between Influenza (flu) and COVID-19?

Both seasonal influenza and COVID-19 are caused by viruses. They are different viruses that cause serious respiratory infections. You can learn more here.

Who should get a flu vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Everyone over the age of 6 months should get the vaccine, unless they have a true, bonified reason like a severe reaction to a component of the vaccine. If there was ever a time for naysayers, doubters or those who got it sporadically in the past, now is the time to get on the bandwagon and get vaccinated when it's available.

Why is it critical to get a flu vaccine this year?

It is extremely important that as many people be vaccinated against the flu as possible while we are in the middle of this coronavirus pandemic. We still don’t know everything about the COVID-19 virus, and we do not know what happens if you have both viruses in your body at the same time. You don’t want to take the risk of having both flu and coronavirus at the same time. Also, the more people who are immunized against the flu will help us keep our hospitals from being inundated during flu season.

Will a flu vaccine protect me against COVID-19?

Even if you get a flu vaccine, it’s crucial for everyone to continue to take precautions against COVID-19wear your mask, wash your hands, social distance, follow the rules in your community.  

When should I get the flu vaccine?

Generally, the traditional start of flu season is around October. It takes about two weeks for your immune system to build up its immunity to the virus. So, it’s best to get a shot just before or at the beginning of the flu season. Consult with your doctor on the best timing for you and which vaccine is right for you.

How/where do I get my flu shot?

Call your doctor’s office or local pharmacy for details.

Are there any special considerations for the elderly regarding getting their flu shot during the pandemic?

There's a vaccine specifically for older individuals. If you are in an older age group, ask your doctor about a vaccine preparation that may be more appropriate for older individuals.

What should I do if I have symptoms that may be due to influenza or COVID-19?

Call your doctor or your local urgent care center if you have symptoms. And we encourage you to stay at home if you have any signs of a respiratory infection.

Remember, you can’t get the flu from the vaccine. It’s a myth. When you get the flu shot, it's a dead virus. If you can bring that virus back to life,  you're going to get the Nobel prize.

Learn more here.

Leonard Mermel, DO

Leonard A. Mermel, DO

Dr. Leonard Mermel is an infectious diseases specialist and medical director of the department of epidemiology and infection control at Lifespan.