The combo of COVID-19 and the flu could be devastating this winter.
Getting the flu vaccine is important every single year. Influenza has the potential to be a nasty virus with a risk of life-threatening complications, such as pneumonia. However, during an active COVID-19 pandemic, getting the flu vaccine in 2020 is going to be more important than ever.
Remember, the flu vaccine does *not* help prevent COVID-19—they are two separate viruses. Still, vaccination against influenza can benefit you and your community during the COVID-19 pandemic in many ways.
Reason #1: To reduce the risk of having COVID-19 and the flu simultaneously (for you and others)
Having one is bad enough, but having both at the same time could be devastating. Having the flu vaccine will not only protect you from this risk, but it will help avoid spreading the flu to others you are exposed to. (Keep in mind that research is ongoing about how likely and how common this could be, but time will tell.)
Reason #2: To reduce the burden on hospitals
Remember in April of 2020 when some cities around the world had to open supplementary hospital space in parks, tents, and warehouses? The fact is, hospitals have a limited physical capacity: They can only have so many patients at once. Additionally, they have limited personnel to provide quality care. This gets even trickier when healthcare workers fall ill themselves.
Flu season alone stretches hospitals thin every year. In 2018, TIME reported that many hospitals were at capacity from flu hospitalizations, and many had to set up tents. That’s without COVID-19 patients.
Each flu season, the flu vaccine helps prevent tens of thousands of hospitalizations, according to the CDC. The more people get the flu vaccine in 2020, the less burden on hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reason #3: To reduce the spread of the flu itself
With all the attention on COVID-19, it’s easy to forget that the flu itself is a massive burden on communities. The 2017-2018 flu season caused an estimated 21 million hospital visits, 810 thousand hospitalizations, and 61 thousand deaths, according to the CDC. Not only are families losing their loved ones, but people lose friends, businesses lose employees, and communities lose citizens, volunteers, and leaders.
It’s important to remember that the flu—while less dangerous than COVID-19—may also cause life-threatening complications. This is especially true for at-risk individuals. People at a higher risk of flu complications include infants, pregnant women, older adults, and people with underlying medical conditions.
If you want to do your part to keep your community and loved ones safe, getting the flu vaccine in 2020 is essential. Don’t wait until the flu is already spreading in your community. Flu season tends to increase in October, so the CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older (with a few rare exceptions) get vaccinated in early fall.
- Frequently asked influenza (flu) questions: 2020-2021 season. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020. (Accessed on September 9, 2020)
- Past seasons estimated influenza disease burden averted by vaccination. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020. (Accessed on September 9, 2020)
- The flu season. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018. (Accessed on September 9, 2020)
- Who needs a flu vaccine and when? Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020. (Accessed on September 9, 2020)