Health experts suggest getting flu shot early amidst COVID-19 pandemic

CDC: People should get flu shot in September and October
Published: Aug. 18, 2020 at 3:12 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - "I think the flu shot this year is going to be very important," said Dr. Christopher Painter, emergency medicine physician at BayCare Clinic.

Although we don't have a coronavirus vaccine yet, there will be a flu shot this year and health experts are hoping people get it early.

As we get closer to the start of influenza season this fall, with COVID-19 still a threat, Dr. Painter said there's some uncertainty.

“We just don’t know exactly how the coronavirus is going to be affected by these other illnesses that could be super imposed on one another, meaning having both illnesses at the same time,” said Dr. Painter.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it will be possible for someone to get COVID-19 and the flu at the same time.

“The two illnesses together, we don’t know what that would cause, but it could be pretty bad,” said Dr. Painter.

Dr. Painter

For that reason, Dr. Painter, along with the CDC, is suggesting that everyone who can get the flu shot, especially those who are high risk for COVID-10, to get it this year. He said it can be hard to tell the difference between COVID-19 and the flu without a test.

"It would be very difficult. The symptoms overlap significantly," said Dr. Painter. "There's almost no way to know the difference between influenza and coronavirus."

The CDC suggests getting the flu shot in September or October before peak influenza season hits. The CDC is projecting between 194-198 million doses will be available this year, up from 175 million doses last flu season.

“The vaccination for the flu can be one way to prevent a serious illness. If we had the same thing for coronavirus, we would be in a very different situation, so I think we need to feel very lucky we do have access to a good vaccination for influenza, although not always perfect, the benefits far outweigh the risks,” said Dr. Painter.

Dr. Painter said getting the flu shot will also help health care professionals diagnose you if you do have COVID-19.

"Our evaluation on a person can change dramatically whether they are up-to-date on vaccinations, not just influenza, but all vaccinations," said Dr. Painter. "Having a flu vaccination, which can reduce the severity of the influenza symptoms and reduce the number of people who have symptoms at all, will help the healthcare system be able to care for other people, including those with COVID-19."

Along with getting the flu shot, Dr. Painter suggests continuing basic health etiquette.

“I very much hope that the coronavirus does change our behavior in a lot of different ways, including being more respectful of people, wearing masks, not coughing or sneezing and exposing other people to whatever virus we have, but also understanding the importance of vaccinations, which on a big level, not just help individuals but the community.”

According to the CDC, COVID-19 and influenza share these symptoms:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

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