Cheryl Ostrowski, MD, is a board-certified primary care physician with more than 28 years of clinical experience. She practices family medicine at Inova Primary Care – Burke, which opened in September 2020.
Since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are taking more health precautions than ever. Wearing masks and washing hands offer a level of protection but may not be enough with flu season upon us. While there’s no vaccine for COVID-19, there is a vaccine for seasonal flu. Experts agree that getting that vaccine should be top of your to-do list, especially this year.
During last year’s flu season, influenza affected 38 million Americans. It caused more than 18 million visits to health care providers and over 400,000 hospitalizations. This year, the combination of the COVID pandemic and flu season spells trouble for individuals and our health care system. Getting vaccinated may be crucial in avoiding a “twindemic” – a flu epidemic in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
To help you get vaccinated safely, we’ve answered the most common questions about getting a flu shot during the COVID pandemic.
Who Should Be Vaccinated for Influenza?
The CDC recommends that every person over 6 months of age receive a flu vaccination. Since you can get both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, it’s especially important for older adults and people with underlying conditions to protect themselves.
The flu vaccine reduces hospitalizations and visits to the doctor’s office by more than 40%. Being vaccinated protects you and those most vulnerable in the community from influenza and other respiratory illnesses.
When Is the Best Time to Get the Flu Vaccine?
October is the ideal time to get your flu shot, but getting it any time during fall or winter is better than not getting it at all. Whenever possible, get it early in the season when it’s readily available. The vaccine needs two weeks to take effect, so there will be a lag before you’re protected. Vaccines given early in the fall and later should offer protection for the entire flu season.
Will the Flu Shot Protect Me From COVID-19?
The flu vaccine will not protect you from COVID-19. But protecting yourself from the flu offers other important benefits related to COVID. If you are older or at high risk, getting vaccinated will help keep you safely at home, reserving health care resources for patients with COVID. Staying healthy may also protect you from getting other secondary illnesses like COVID.
Which Flu Shot Is Recommended for People 65 and Older?
People 65 years and older can get any flu shot approved for adults. But the CDC recommends that older adults opt for a more powerful flu vaccine (Flublok and High dose) if it’s available. These stronger vaccines are similar to the regular flu shot but contain 3 or 4 times more antigen, the inactivated virus that triggers your body’s immune response. The extra boost may be just what your aging immune system needs to fight off influenza.
Where Can I Safely Get a Flu Vaccine?
Inova primary care providers offer influenza vaccinations for existing patients during scheduled appointments and flu clinics. Through Inova’s Safe@Inova program, all locations are diligent and proactive, taking measures to keep you safe during your visit.
Learn how to schedule a flu vaccine at your Inova primary care location.