This year's flu season is arriving while efforts to curtail the coronavirus continue across the nation, creating new questions about how to deal with the more familiar virus.
A flu vaccine is usually available before fall weather is here. This year, some pharmacies have announced the vaccine's availability earlier than they are typically recommended.
Q: Why is it especially important to get a flu shot this year?
A: Experts say we could see a second wave of COVID-19 cases at the same time flu season ramps up. Health care facilities could be strained by a large number of COVID-19 and patients with severe flu. Also, some symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 are similar. There is no current vaccine for COVID-19, but there is one for the seasonal flu.
Q: When should I get a flu shot?
Check with your health care provider, but experts say the best time is September and October, so there is time for it to provide protection before flu season is in full force. Even if you don’t get a vaccine by the end of October, experts say you should get it in the following months or as long as viruses are circulating locally.
Q: Who should get a flu shot?
A: Everyone 6 months of age and older should get the vaccine. There are some exceptions, such as people with certain allergies and conditions. See your health care provider for guidance.
Q: Will the flu shot prevent me from getting the flu?
A: Not all people who get the flu shot will avoid getting the flu. But having the vaccine means your illness will be less severe and you will be less likely to need hospitalization.
Q: Does this year’s flu vaccine match the strains that will be circulating?
A: This year’s vaccines were developed in an effort to match three or four strains of Flu A and Flu B that will be circulating.
Q: Do I have to pay for a flu shot?
A: The vaccine is covered by most insurance plans. There are also free and low-cost clinics to help boost the number of people vaccinated.
SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Newsday research