Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and on the verge of another flu season, it’s more important than ever to be vaccinated for influenza as soon as possible.
If more people are vaccinated for the flu, fewer people will become sick with the flu and fewer patients will require hospitalization. When there are fewer flu cases, hospital resources are freed up for COVID-19 patients in the event of surges.
“We don’t have a vaccine for COVID-19, which means as long as people are interacting with each other, the virus will continue to spread, and people will continue to become sick with COVID-19,” says Jennifer S. Johnson, D.O., a Family Medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato. “With fall and winter approaching, it’s a very real concern that both influenza and the coronavirus could cause patient surges. We need people to do their part and get vaccinated for the flu.”
While it’s difficult to predict exactly what will happen in the upcoming flu season, the Southern Hemisphere, where the flu season is coming to an end, offers some clues. Mask-wearing and social-distancing due to COVID-19 has helped to keep the flu burden down, as these practices help protect people from numerous respiratory viruses and not just COVID-19.
“The flu activity in the Southern Hemisphere shows us how important it is for all of us to remain vigilant and continue to wear our masks and social distance,” says Dr. Johnson. “Also, don’t forget to keep up with the habit of thorough and frequent hand-washing.”
Unfortunately, some people may be reluctant to be vaccinated or to vaccinate their children due to misinformation about vaccine safety. Vaccines are held to the highest standards of safety and, aside from minor side effects for some patients, they are safe for most patients.
“It’s important to seek medical information only from credible sources who have scientific training,” says Dr. Johnson. “Vaccines are very safe. It’s the diseases they protect against that are the cause for concern.”
Common myths about the flu vaccination that are scientifically proven false include:
- A flu vaccination can cause a patient to get the flu.
While some people experience muscle aches and a fever for a day or two after receiving a flu vaccination, this is likely a side effect of the body’s production of protective antibodies. It is not the flu.
- Many patients have serious adverse reactions to vaccines.
Allergies and serious complications from vaccines are rare. Tell your provider if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to a flu vaccination or any other medicines. Also, tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives or animals.
- Vaccines cause autism.
Despite much controversy on the topic, researchers haven’t found a connection between autism and childhood vaccines.
Talk to your health care provider about any vaccination concerns you might have, as well as how and where to get your flu vaccination.