(NewsUSA) - COVID-19 may be grabbing most of the headlines, but flu season has arrived as well, and unlike the novel coronavirus, there are safe and effective vaccines to reduce the risk of flu.
"Getting the flu vaccine is especially important this year, because of COVID-19," according to the American Heart Association.
"If you get the flu, you may need to be hospitalized, in this time of COVID, in an already overwhelmed healthcare system. Get your flu shot, avoid getting the flu, and stay out of the hospital." says Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., MPH, FAAFP, AHA chief medical officer for prevention.
CDC recommends annual flu vaccinations for nearly all persons 6 months of age and older. However, some populations are at increased risk of the flu, and it is especially important for these groups to get vaccinated:
- Seniors, adults aged 65 years and older may be more vulnerable to the flu and potential complications.
- Individuals with underlying chronic health conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
- Children, especially those younger than 5 years and those who have returned to in-person school.
- Pregnant women, who may be at increased risk of the flu because of immune system changes during pregnancy.
- Individuals who are Black or Hispanic; data suggests that these populations may be at increased risk of the flu and flu-related complications.
Unfortunately, the myth persists that the flu vaccine causes the flu. Not true -- the flu vaccine may cause mild side effects such as soreness, redness, or swelling at the site of the injection that may last a few days, or mild, flu-like symptoms that are far less severe than the actual flu.
Getting a flu vaccine is easy and safe. Doctors' offices are taking additional precautions this year, such as designating certain areas of their offices for flu vaccine clinics, or offering drive-thru service. Flu vaccines also are available in most pharmacies, and through some employers where offices have reopened with added precautions such as drive-thru access. For those who are without insurance, free flu vaccines are available through community pop-up centers and federally funded community health centers.
The sooner you get a flu shot, the sooner you are protected, but it is never too late. A flu shot at any point during flu season is better than not being vaccinated at all, according to the CDC.
However, getting a flu shot doesn't mean to stop paying attention to other healthy habits. Frequent and thorough handwashing, social distancing, and wearing a mask can help reduce the spread of the flu as well as COVID-19.
For more information about the flu, the flu vaccine, and staying healthy this flu season, visit heart.org/fluprevention.