A flu shot will help to protect you from this year’s flu viruses. A flu shot will not protect you from developing COVID-19, but a study of more than 92,000 Brazilian patients with COVID-19 showed that the odds of severe disease, ventilatory support requirement, and death were reduced in people who had a recent trivalent flu vaccine (MedRxiv, June 2020, preprint).
You need to get the flu vaccine each year because last year’s vaccine offers little or no protection. Flu viruses mutate frequently and each year’s strain has a completely different structure than the virus that appeared the previous year. Since new flu viruses circulate the globe every year, vaccine manufacturers culture the virus from infected people in Asia in the spring, and use it to make that years’s vaccine for people in North America who will be exposed to the virus in fall and winter.
You can get a flu vaccine at your doctor’s office, health department, pharmacies, drive-through immunization services, curbside clinics, mobile outreach units, or home visits. You can use VaccineFinder.org to find where flu vaccines are available near you. I always recommend that you should get a flu shot in the fall each year, but this year it is particularly important because the combination of flu and COVID-19 cases during the winter could overload medical facilities. You may find it difficult to get doctor’s appointments, certain medications or hospital space.
- It takes two weeks for the flu vaccine to protect you, so get your flu shot now.
• Flu and COVID-19, individually, can cause serious illness, including hospitalization and death.
• Doctors have tests for both flu A and B viruses and for SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
• You can be infected with the flu and SARS-CoV-2 viruses at the same time.
• People at high risk for COVID-19 complications (such as having high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease or organ damage, and anyone over 65 years of age) should get their flu vaccine as soon as possible.
• Everyone over six months of age should be immunized, with few exceptions.
• Do not get a flu vaccine if you think you may have COVID-19.
• There is no evidence that flu vaccination increases risk for COVID-19 (Clin and Trans Sci, Sept 21, 2020).
High-Dose Flu Vaccines For People Over 65
The newer special high-dose vaccines for those over 65 appear to be about 25 percent more effective than the standard-dose vaccines. Fluzone High-Dose Trivalent is composed of three flu strains most likely to cause the flu this winter. Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent has just been approved and is made up of four flu strains. Both vaccines contain four times as much flu virus antigen as the other vaccines and produce a much greater immunity. Since many people over 65 have lower levels of immunity, these vaccines offer better levels of protection against getting the flu and having serious side effects from the flu. Be aware that these vaccines are more likely to cause minor side effects such as a fever or a sore arm after you receive the injection.