We live in the age of COVID-19, but do you remember the flu? A flea bite. Not worth worrying about. Right?
Wrong. Influenza kills between 20,000 and 60,000 Americans annually, depending on the strain. Between 10.5 million and 40 million Americans contract the virus and many of them are so debilitated by it they can’t move for days.
This year, with the coronavirus racing across our continent, it is doubly important to get your flu shot as soon as possible. It is painless and inexpensive; in fact, many employers and other organizations provide them for free.
CDC Recommends a Flu Shot for Everyone
“Getting a flu vaccine this fall will be more important than ever, not only to reduce your risk from flu but also to help conserve potentially scarce health care resources,” says the Centers for Disease Control.
Dr. Michael Schmidt, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), adds that “Anytime there is a significant outbreak of an illness you don’t want to get another one on top of the potential of getting the first. If you get COVID and the flu coincidently, you will likely have a much rougher time recovering,” he said.
Dr. Schmidt says everyone age two and above should be immunized against the flu. Vaccines that are established in the spring in anticipation of the strains pre-eminent during the next winter’s seasonal outbreak average about 40% effectiveness. Even the 60% who nonetheless contract the flu experience significantly diminished symptoms.
Those over 65 must get a stronger dose of the vaccine to help their diminished immune systems. Flu vaccines are plentiful and available across the country. Your doctor’s office, local pharmacies and clinics, and even many employers offer flu vaccinations.
One Flu Survivor Who Always Gets Vaccinated
Mt. Pleasant resident, David Loderick has firsthand experience with the value of the flu vaccine. In the days before CDC guidelines recommended everyone getting vaccinated, he never gave it a second thought. Back then, flu shots were for older people and those with compromised immune systems. Then one year he contracted the virus. “It just flattened me,” he said. “Knocked me out of work for four or five days.”
After that, Loderick made sure to get his shot every fall. He hasn’t felt a sniffle since.
As temperatures drop, the flu becomes more active, but it is never too late to get immunized. Even a December or January vaccination provides more protection than none.
Flu Vaccines Don’t Affect COVID Vaccines
Getting vaccinated for the flu won’t have any impact on a COVID vaccine. Everyone needs both, according to Dr. Schmidt. Besides, for the majority of us, the COVID vaccine won’t be available until the spring or summer, long after the flu season has faded.
As for those who listen to the shibboleths about the health dangers of vaccines, the long-since debunked theory that they lead to autism, or the idea that they are bizarre plots to transform Americans into mindless zombies, Dr. Schmidt offers this:
“The scientific evidence demonstrates that vaccines are safer than any activities that you will do throughout most of your life. They have been investigated and we know them to be very safe. Get vaccinated: it’s one of the best measures to protect you and your family from contracting all sorts of infectious diseases.”