Beth Battaglino, RN-C
It’s more important than ever to get your annual flu vaccine as the threat of COVID-19 continues to impact communities across the country.
As we approach the holiday season and the many traditions and rituals that go with it, there is one important health ritual you shouldn’t forget: your annual flu shot. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during the 2019 to 2020 season, only 45 percent of Americans received the flu vaccine, and an estimated 39 to 56 million Americans were infected with influenza.
We have to do better this season.
There’s a common misconception that the flu is just a serious cold. In fact, the flu is dangerous and can kill you. During the last season, the flu caused between 24,000 and 62,000 deaths.
Now the COVID-19 pandemic makes the flu vaccine even more vital for a number of reasons. Both the flu and COVID-19 are respiratory infections and share similar symptoms, so if you haven’t had the vaccine and get symptoms, you may dismiss them as the flu when in fact it’s COVID-19. This is particularly important for those with compromised immune systems or other health conditions, who have a higher risk of contracting both the flu and COVID-19.
During last season, between 410,000 and 740,000 Americans were hospitalized with the flu. We need to reduce that number this year to free up resources for COVID-19 patients. While the flu vaccine won’t guarantee you won’t get the flu, it will lessen the severity of your symptoms, meaning there’s less chance you’ll end up in the hospital.
Another misconception with the influenza vaccine is that only children or the elderly need to get it. In fact, we all need to get vaccinated — including pregnant women, women who are two weeks postpartum, and young adults — not only to protect ourselves but to protect those we care for, whether young children or elderly parents.
Even if you still haven’t received your flu vaccine, it’s not too late. Getting your vaccination will protect you, those you love, and the wider community.