While the world waits for a COVID-19 vaccine to be developed, experts say that we should not ignore the lifesaving vaccine we already have in our health arsenal: the flu vaccine.
The flu vaccine can help prevent potentially deadly pneumonia, infections, and the worsening of medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and congestive heart failure caused by influenza. It’s especially important for people over the age of 65 to get vaccinated because they are at increased risk of serous flu-related complications, along with pregnant women and young children.
According to The New York Times, although the annual flu vaccine may be only 50% effective in preventing the main influenza strains, “it’s still better than zero,” said Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. Osterholm added that the COVID-19 vaccine may also have limited effectiveness, and, in all likelihood, we will still have to practice social distancing, wash our hands frequently, and wear masks in public.
It takes two weeks for the flu vaccine to become protective, so experts say that October is the ideal time to get the shot since flu season usually begins around November and lasts until April or May. While almost everyone over the age of 6 months can safely have a flu shot, some people with allergies or previous reactions to the vaccine should check with their healthcare provider for the most suitable form of flu protection.
For people over the age of 65, for example, there’s a special high-dose vaccine that offers four times the level of antigen protection than the standard dose of the flu vaccine. According to health expert Jane Brody, writing for the Times, the Fluzone High-Dose is “available and covered by Medicare.” According to The New England Journal of Medicine, the high-dose vaccine was 24.2% more effective in seniors than the standard-dose shot.
According to The Seattle Times, as the flu season collides with COVID-19 this fall, getting the flu vaccine is more important than ever.
“I’m worried about the whole kit and caboodle and how confusing it might be,” said Dr. John Lynch, a board-certified physician and medical director of infection control at the University of Washington's Harborview Medical Center. “That’s why getting a flu shot this year is more important than ever — not only to keep you and your family and the community safe from flu, but also to keep people with these other COVID-like illnesses out of doctor’s offices and emergency departments.”
Pharmaceutical companies have increased the production of flu vaccines, and healthcare agencies are positioned to make the vaccine more accessible to populations who are most at risk, according to The Seattle Times.
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