With COVID-19 cases on the rise again, flu vaccination is more important than ever.
How to help prevent a COVID-19 and flu ‘twindemic’ (Photo: Getty Images. Posed by models.)
Flu season has officially begun, and a common fear this year is that the continuing COVID-19 pandemic will cause a “twindemic” that could overwhelm the health care system. COVID-19 has been the biggest health concern of the year, but the flu remains a dangerous threat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention article written by scientists, up to 61,000 flu-related deaths occur in the United States each year, and up to 810,000 people who get the flu are hospitalized.
Despite the many benefits offered by an annual flu vaccine, less than half of American adults get vaccinated.
“Everyone 6 months and older should get a seasonal vaccination,” said Dr. Michael Zuckman, an internal medicine specialist with White Plains Hospital Medical & Wellness in Armonk. “Some people, such as those over age 65, young children and those with underlying health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications. Getting vaccinated protects not only yourself but the people around you.”
Flu vaccination facts vs. fiction
Fiction: The flu shot is ineffective
There are many misconceptions about flu vaccination, starting with its effectiveness.
“The vaccination, on average, is about 45% effective each year. Because of that, people look at that percentage and think it’s ineffective,” Zuckman said. “What they may not realize is that number represents the percentage of people who do not have to be hospitalized. If look you at it from that perspective, you can see the value in getting a flu shot.”
Fiction: The flu shot will make you sick
People who forgo getting an annual vaccination often express concern that the shot will give them the flu, or they fear other side effects.
“The vaccine is formulated from dead or inactive viruses, so it will not make you sick with the flu,” Zuckman said. “It is also administered in your arm muscle, which is not an area the flu virus normally reaches.”
Additionally, the CDC has reported that there is no evidence that getting a flu vaccine increases the risk of becoming infected with the coronavirus.
The residual effects from a flu vaccination are far less severe than developing the flu itself.
“You might experience muscle aches, a headache or a slight temperature, all of which mimic the flu,” Zuckman said. “The vaccine stimulates the immune system, so, in a way, having flu-like symptoms is a good response. Typically, the symptoms disappear in a day or two.”
Fiction: You don’t need to get a flu shot every year
Having been vaccinated in the past does not necessarily mean you are immune to this year’s strains of influenza. Multiple flu strains circulate in any given year. Because flu viruses evolve so quickly, the previous year’s vaccine may not provide protection from the new strains.
“Research has shown that