You’ve heard it before: You should get your flu shot. It’s tried-and-true medical advice. But did you know some scientists and doctors worry this flu season might be worse than others?
Here’s why it’s especially important that you get a flu shot this year.
This year’s flu season might be worse than others
Last year, flu season in the U.S. was mild. So mild, in fact, in 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recorded the lowest flu activity since they started tracking flu data in 2005.
The COVID-19 safety measures people followed in 2020 may be partly responsible. Mask wearing, social distancing, handwashing, staying home more often—these practices prevent not only the spread of COVID-19 but also other respiratory illnesses like the flu.
But scientists and doctors believe the pendulum could swing in the other direction this year. In an increasingly pandemic-weary world, many people are skipping the safety measures. And because fewer people got the flu vaccine or got sick with the flu last season, we may have less immunity against flu viruses in general. As a result, we might be more likely to get sick with the flu this year.
Flu vaccines are updated every year
Just like your smartphone, your flu vaccine needs updates. Every year, scientists create a new flu vaccine to protect against the four strains of flu they predict will be most common. Unfortunately, that means last year’s shot won’t protect you from this year’s flu because new strains may be circulating.
The flu shot helps prevent hospitalization during a pandemic
This fall and winter could be especially busy in many hospitals across the U.S. The dominant Delta variant of COVID-19 is causing an increase in hospitalizations nationally. By getting your flu shot, you can avoid ending up in the hospital with the flu.
Every year, the flu shot prevents tens of thousands of hospitalizations. Flu vaccines reduce the risk of flu-related hospitalizations by about 40% on average for older adults according to the CDC.
You can get your flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time
If you’re wondering how to juggle these two important vaccinations this fall, don’t worry. You can get them both at the same time, according to the CDC. By getting both vaccinations at a single visit, you’ll save yourself the time of a second appointment.
You can protect loved ones around you
The health of our loved ones is priceless. By getting a flu shot, you can protect the people around you, including those more vulnerable to getting sick. Babies, young kids, older adults and people with recurring health issues are all at a higher risk of serious illness that could require hospitalization or intensive care.
Get your flu shot this fall. Aim for October, so your body has the time it needs to build protection (about two weeks) before flu viruses begin to spread in your area.
If you have any questions about the flu vaccine or your personal health, talk to your primary care provider.