To date, more than nine million COVID-19 cases have been diagnosed in the United States. While nearly six million recovered from the virus, there have been more than 233,000 deaths. The fall and winter cold and flu season is widely predicted to create additional risks of infection with the flu and the COVID-19 virus as a secondary infection.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms that it is possible to have flu, as well as other respiratory illnesses, and COVID-19 at the same time.
Craig P. Chase, M.D., a partner at Oviedo Medical Research, encourages Americans to get their flu shot saying, “If you can avoid getting the flu, you won’t be as potentially susceptible to getting COVID.”
Should I Skip the Flu Vaccine?
Dr. Chase says, “You should not skip the flu vaccine this year for a lot of reasons.”
The flu vaccine is important because:
- If you get flu and COVID-19 you are more likely to become seriously ill
- If you’re at higher risk for COVID-19, you’re more at risk for flu
- The flu shot can help reduce an influx of patients into our nation’s hospitals
The New Yorker lays out some concerning predictions for the winter months, “There is the possibility of a one-two punch, particularly among older people: becoming infected first with a cold or flu, which weakens the respiratory system, and then with sars-CoV-2.” Hospitals are concerned about an influx of both flu and COVID-19 cases which could overwhelm their ability to cope.
At the same time, with more people working from home and wearing preventative masks when going out, the flu season could be less virulent this year. The truth is, we just don’t know.
It is this uncertainty that causes Dr. Chase concern. He points out, “We lose a lot of people to flu every year. The more people we can immunize, the less people there are to give the higher risk groups the flu.” However, there are a number of factors in our favor, from mask wearing to the fact that more people may be likely to get the flu shot this year because they’re aware of the connection between flu and COVID-19.
The flu shot is designed to prevent this type of illness, and the CDC reports this inoculation is 40 to 60% effective at preventing flu-type illnesses each year.
Dr. Chase says, “I recommend it every year. Even with healthy people; the same thing we’re doing with COVID, you want to do with the flu. With the flu, both the young and the old can get very very sick and actually die from the flu every year.”
How Does the Flu Vaccine Work?
Each year the CDC releases the annual flu shot which offers protection against three or four of the most common types of influenza viruses predicted to be a problem that year. Influenza viruses, like COVID-19, are respiratory infections that can cause serious complications. Since flu viruses mutate regularly, last year’s vaccine may not work on this year’s influenza. A new flu shot each year is necessary to help prevent the spread.
The flu shot consists of inactivated influenza viruses that have been killed so they can’t cause the flu. These inoculations cause the body to create antibodies to develop about two weeks after you receive your flu shot. This can protect you from infection during flu season.
Dr. Chase says, “I think just from a general health perspective that the more you can do to protect yourself from getting sick, the better off you’re going to be as far as from a COVID perspective.” Are there other ways you can prepare for flu season during a global pandemic?
Flu Season and COVID-19—How to Prepare
Preparing for flu season this year is just as important to you as it is to the health systems in your community. Dr. Chase points out that doing everything you can to stay healthy, including getting the flu shot will help:
“One of the things we were trying to do with COVID was flatten the curve. We were trying to not overwhelm our healthcare system. There are times every single year where we get notifications from the hospital that they are full to capacity because of all of the flu cases being hospitalized with people with pneumonia and respiratory distress. So, if we can avoid overburdening the hospital system with large numbers of flu cases,
and at the same time we get a big outbreak of COVID again,
we’re going to have no place to put them.”
The CDC recommends that everyone about the age of six months receive a preventative flu shot. It is particularly important for the elderly or those with a complicating health condition. There are several different types of vaccines available. Talk with your doctor about whether a flu shot is right for your individual situation.
How can you protect yourself this year from the additional threat of the flu? Here are four suggestions:
- Do not skip the flu shot this year
- Don’t forget your kids and other family members
- Care for you and your family with proper hydration, good nutrition, exercise, and stress management
- Continue to protect yourself from COVID-19 by wearing masks, washing your hands, and regularly sanitizing your home and office
Dr. Chase says, “You want to keep your health as tip top shape as you can so that you end up getting through COVID if you can with minimal issues.”
The reality is that you can contract both the flu and the coronavirus at the same time. Prepare now to keep you and your family safer this winter. Flu shots are available at your primary care physician office as well as the local pharmacy and in other qualified healthcare facilities.
Dr. Chase and the team at Oviedo Medical Research works hard to ensure your safety. Oviedo Medical Research specializes in Phase II through IV clinical trials designed to yield the medications and vaccines that take care of your health. If you’re interested in joining us for a clinical trial, contact us.