While the flu and COVID-19 are both very contagious respiratory illness, different viruses cause them. Both diseases can cause fever, cough, body aches, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Both can cause pneumonia, and both can be fatal. The convergence of these two serious infections at the same time during the peak of this year's flu season (December through February) could overwhelm the health care system. Colder winter months will force people indoors where the spread of both diseases is more likely.
Luckily the flu, unlike the novel coronavirus (aka COVID-19), is a familiar enemy for which we have a defense—that is, the flu shot. That is why every American is strongly urged to get a flu shot this year. The flu vaccination may decrease the severity of influenza and your risk of being hospitalized for it. It will also prevent the spread of the flu virus to others, softening the potential burden to the healthcare system due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Good And Bad News About the Flu Shot
The good news is that getting an annual flu shot can help people avoid the flu and stay healthy. The bad news is that there is a lot of misinformation around the flu vaccination. Here are five common myths about the flu shot — and the facts:
Myth 1: The flu shot gives people the flu
Not true. According to the CDC, the flu shot is made with a virus that has been either "killed" or "inactivated" or made with "only a single gene from a flu virus (as opposed to the full virus) in order to produce an immune response without causing infection."
Myth 2: It's better to get the flu than the flu vaccine
It's not. The flu can be a very serious disease, especially for young children, older adults, and people with certain chronic health conditions such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes. Even for otherwise healthy people, the flu carries risk of serious complications that can lead to hospitalization and even death. It is far safer to get the vaccination than to risk getting the flu.
Myth #3: It is Unnecessary to Get the Flu Shot Every Year
False—the flu shot is necessary EVERY year. An individual's immune protection from vaccination declines over time, even when the viruses the vaccine protects against have not changed from the previous season.
Myth #4: The Side Effects of the Vaccination are worse than the Flu
Hardly. Some people might experience mild reactions from the flu shot such as site soreness, swelling, low-grade fever and headaches. These symptoms might last 1-2 days and disappear without further complications, unlike the flu that is a sometimes deadly disease. Serious allergic reactions to flu vaccines are very rare.
Myth #5: Healthy People Don't Need to be Vaccinated
Completely False. Current CDC guidelines recommend flu vaccination every year for everyone older than 6 months of age, including pregnant women. While it is especially important for people who have a chronic illness to get the flu shot, anyone — even healthy people — benefit from getting the flu shot.
Get Your Flu Shot in the Early Fall
Since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against flu, the CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine as early in the fall as possible, and definitely by the end of October. Call your primary care provider (PCP) today to discuss your vaccination needs and to schedule a flu shot appointment. If you do not have a PCP, call 215.345.2121 for a referral.
About Doylestown Health
Doylestown Health is a comprehensive healthcare system of inpatient, outpatient and wellness education services connected to meet the health needs of all members of the local and regional community. Doylestown Hospital, the flagship to Doylestown Health has 271 beds and a Medical Staff of more than 435 physicians in over 50 specialties. An independent nonprofit health system, Doylestown Health is dedicated to providing innovative, patient-centered care for all ages.