Getting your flu shot this year will be more important than ever, health experts advise, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Every year, physicians recommend getting vaccinated as a way to protect yourself against contracting or spreading influenza. But this year, our health crisis has made this single act of preventive care especially critical for protecting yourself from a disease that plagues millions.
“The flu virus will weaken your immune system, making you more vulnerable to catching other respiratory infections, including COVID-19, and that’s why getting vaccinated this year is so important,” said Margaret Khoury, MD, an infectious disease specialist who is the COVID-19 and influenza vaccination program physician lead at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California.
She noted that having the flu and COVID-19 at the same time would be devastating to your health. “The influenza vaccine remains the most effective prevention against contracting the flu and its complications,” Dr. Khoury explained.
In most years, millions of people get the flu, and hundreds of thousands of individuals go to the emergency room or are hospitalized with severe complications, said David Bronstein, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist who practices at Kaiser Permanente Antelope Valley Medical Offices.
“This year, we’re preparing for a flu season that is worse than last year,” he said. “Last year, we didn’t see many flu cases, possibly due to the precautions we all took and because the coronavirus crowded out the flu.”
Margaret Khoury, MD, infectious disease specialist
“The flu virus will weaken your immune system, making you more vulnerable to catching other respiratory infections, including COVID-19, and that’s why getting vaccinated this year is so important.”
Dr. Khoury said getting the flu vaccine is very important, but especially for the most sensitive populations. They include the elderly, pregnant women, children younger than 5 years old, and people with chronic health conditions.
When it comes to children who never received the flu vaccine before, those under age 8 will need to receive 2 flu shots, with a booster vaccine given 28 days after the first dose. Parents are strongly encouraged to have their children vaccinated this year, as many children have resumed in-person learning at school, and will be more susceptible to being infected with the flu virus as they interact with other students and teachers.
“A common misconception is that a flu shot will give you the flu,” Dr. Bronstein noted. “That’s simply not true. You cannot contract the flu from getting a flu shot. Side effects, when they do occur, are typically very mild. However, by not getting vaccinated, you put yourself and your loved ones at a greater risk of getting the flu, which causes serious illness, hospitalizations, and thousands of deaths each year.”
Kaiser Permanente members are encouraged to visit kp.org/flu or call the flu hotline at 1-866-706-6358 for information on how to safely get your no-cost flu vaccination at Kaiser Permanente facilities across Southern California.