PBS News Hour weighs-in on the subject of Flu Vaccination
The coronavirus is completely different from influenza viruses, so someone who received a flu shot in 2019 would not be better protected against COVID-19 during the pandemic. But it’s still very important to get vaccinated against the flu this year for a whole list of reasons. Here are some points to keep in mind:
- Vaccination reduces your risk of developing a severe case of the flu. Public health experts predict a steady increase of COVID-19 cases during the winter months, and huge spikes could potentially overwhelm hospital capacity in hard-hit communities. Getting a flu shot will make it less likely that you’ll wind up in the hospital with a flu infection, which will help keep beds open for COVID-19 patients in serious need of care.
- COVID-19 and the flu can cause similar symptoms. If you develop flu-like symptoms that are also associated with COVID-19 — like a fever, cough, headache, body aches or fatigue — you should get tested for COVID-19 and isolate yourself from other people. But if it turns out that you have the flu and not COVID-19, you can take comfort in the fact that your symptoms are less likely to become severe if you’ve been vaccinated.
- It can take about two weeks for protection to kick in after receiving a flu shot. That’s why you’ll want to get it sooner rather than later, ideally by the end of October.
- It’s normal to feel some mild symptoms after getting vaccinated. The flu shot can cause a headache, low fever, muscle aches or soreness around the area where you received it. The nasal spray flu vaccine can cause similar side effects in addition to a runny nose. But flu vaccines cannot infect you with the actual flu, and those effects are both normal and temporary.
The idea that flu vaccination could offer some benefits when it comes to COVID-19 infection has been floated by at least one virologist. Robert Gallo, who directs the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and is chairman of the Global Virus Network, told NPR it’s possible that the nasal spray flu vaccine — which contains attenuated, or weakened influenza viruses, as opposed to the shot, which uses inactivated or recombinant viruses to confer immunity — could essentially offer a kind of broad boost to the immune system. That theory is far from fully confirmed, however. Also, the nasal spray is not recommended for a variety of people, including adults aged 50 years or older, pregnant people and those with weakened immune systems.
Shot or spray, all that matters to public health officials is that you get vaccinated and protect yourself from the flu viruses that are expected to be in circulation this year. You can find out where to get your vaccine by calling your doctor, making an appointment at your local pharmacy or by using the CDC’s VaccineFinder tool, which will show you all of the providers that offer vaccines in your area.
PBS News Hour