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Don't Miss Your Shot: Getting a Flu Vaccine is More Important Than Ever

Influenza Vaccine 2020

September 30, 2020

Every fall, health care providers urge people to get their influenza vaccine, with only about 40% of Iowans actually taking the advice. Misunderstanding of the flu virus also circulates annually, but this year, COVID-19 has added to the confusion felt by many.

Influenza, often referred to as “the flu,” is a respiratory virus that can cause cough, fever, shortness of breath and muscle aches — symptoms that are similar to COVID-19. While both viruses can cause sickness and even death, the flu vaccine can prevent you from getting the virus or, if you do get it, ensure you experience a milder case.

Still, some are leery of the vaccination itself and think it can make them sick. It’s not unusual to have slight fever or minor body aches after being vaccinated; that’s our body’s positive reaction to the vaccine as it builds up antibodies to fight the virus.

Slowing the Opportunity for Infection

With both COVID-19 and flu viruses circulating, and outdoor temperatures lowering, getting the flu vaccine is more important than ever — for people of any age. Even very young healthy people can sometimes get really severe flu. It’s recommended everyone age 6 months and older, with few exceptions, get an annual flu vaccine.

As habits change during colder months and people move closer together, the opportunity for infection greatly increases. It’s possible a person could contract both the flu and COVID-19. However, the effect on the body of a dual diagnosis is not yet known. By protecting yourself the best way you can — by getting an influenza vaccination — you lower your risk of severe illness.

Lessening the number of flu cases will also decrease the burden placed on the health care system. The fewer the number of serious flu cases, the better our hospitals and clinics will be able to handle any spikes that we might see in COVID-19, which we are expecting. We need to try to reduce the influenza burden in the community, because we don’t know how COVID-19 will behave as we enter the colder months.

It is also important to receive your influenza vaccine early. Cases of flu are expected to start increasing in October, and it takes about two weeks for the antibodies to build up and offer protection. Contact your health care provider if you have questions. If you don’t have one, visit MercyOne.org to find a health care provider in your area.

Share this information easily with our flu shot flyer.

You can count on The Partnership to continue to share accurate and fact-based updates. See more on COVID-19 here.

Dr. Ravi Vemuri

Ravi Vemuri, MD, specializes in infectious disease at MercyOne Clive Infectious Disease Care Clinic in Clive, Iowa.