Your Flu Shot: Protecting You, Your Family and Your Patients
By Riley Morales, contributor
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, there has never been a more important year to get your flu shot than in 2020. The same goes for your family, your friends and your patients.
Most healthcare workers will get an annual flu shot, for their own benefit or because it is required by their employer. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that just over 80 percent of healthcare workers were vaccinated for the 2019-2020 flu season.
But some nurses and others in the general public hear that flu vaccines are not 100 percent effective, and so they may not see the need. Yet getting a flu shot in 2020 can keep you from contracting the flu and flu-like symptoms, or reduce the severity of the disease if you do still get it.
A flu shot also protects your loved ones and your patients, and one preliminary study has found that a flu shot may even provide some protection from the coronavirus.
The CDC reports that receiving a flu shot prevents tens of thousands of hospitalizations each year, and that during 2018 and 2019 alone, flu vaccinations prevented an estimated 4.4 million influenza illnesses, 2.3 million medical visits, 58,000 hospitalizations, and 3,500 influenza-associated deaths.
Here is how the 2020 flu shot can benefit you:
Provide protection against influenza strains circulating in 2020-2021
Unfortunately, flu vaccines are not “one and done.” Each year, the flu shot is updated to vaccinate against the influenza strains that are most likely to occur for that given season, which generally occurs in the United States during the fall and winter. So, you need to get one every year.
The immunity boost may protect against COVID-19
One benefit of getting your flu shot in 2020 is that it may help to reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19. A new study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, suggests that flu vaccinations designed to fight against influenza may trigger the body to produce infection-fighting molecules that combat coronavirus.
With the CDC and other public health officials already warning of a “twindemic”—a situation where influenza and COVID-19 spread through and sicken the public simultaneously—it is important to get your flu shot as early as possible.
Your flu shot can help your family and community
After the United States recorded more than 80,000 influenza-related deaths during the 2017–2018 flu season, Surgeon General Jerome Adams urged Americans to get vaccinated, noting that everyone who has died from the flu caught it from someone else.
The immunodeficient and immunocompromised individuals in your family and community are put at an increased risk if you do not get a flu shot. These groups of immunocompromised individuals include pregnant women, infants under the age of six months, the elderly, and those with preexisting conditions like diabetes, chronic lung disease, and cardiovascular disease.
By protecting yourself from the flu with a vaccination, you are lessening the likelihood of spreading the flu to high-risk individuals in your family, at work or in the community. You are also helping to develop herd immunity. Herd immunity means that if a majority of a population receives a vaccination against a specific illness, it greatly reduces the risk of contracting and spreading the illness for the entire community.
Nurses can also be an example to the public who has become increasingly hesitant about getting vaccines. Surgeon General Adams recently testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor and Pensions that the World Health Organization named vaccine hesitancy one of the top 10 global health threats in 2019.
In his statement to the committee, Adams asserted that “vaccines are safe, effective, and lifesaving.”
“For the upcoming flu season, the viruses that cause COVID-19 and influenza will be inextricably linked,” he added. “The question is how we can best prepare Americans to stay healthy from both threats. Although the world has changed over the last nine months due to COVID-19, one thing has not: getting the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu.”
When should you get your flu shot?
The 2020-2021 flu shot is now available. If you have not already received your flu shot, the CDC recommends that you get it as soon as possible, noting that it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop in your body and protect you from the flu.
For more information:
Influenza Vaccination Information for Health Care Workers – CDC
Roll Your #SleeveUp to #FightFlu – CDC’s Social Media Tools on Flu Vaccines
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