COVID-19 and flu shots: Why you should get it, and when

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Is the flu shot more important this year?

Every year, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with other leading medical experts, highly recommend every eligible person receive a flu shot.

Has COVID-19 changed this?

"’s crucial to protect
against the flu in order to
prevent co-infections of
both illnesses, which could
be devastating.”

“This upcoming season, the flu shot carries more importance that perhaps ever before,” said Dr. Anthony Ognjan, an infectious disease specialist at McLaren Macomb. “Until we have a vaccine against the coronavirus, it’s crucial to protect against the flu in order to prevent co-infections of both illnesses, which could be devastating.”

While the flu shot will not prevent a COVID-19 infection, it will – by design – aid in preventing a flu infection, or lead to less-severe symptoms if infected. Influenza vaccinations have historically resulted in decreased deaths and fewer hospitalizations.

The importance of the vaccine, though, in regard to the pandemic is that a flu shot protects against overwhelming the immune system with potential simultaneous infections of influenza and COVID-19.

In the spring of 2020, during the end of the traditional flu season and as the coronavirus was sweeping across the United States, it was discovered that simultaneous infections were possible.

“A duel flu and COVID-19 infection could certainly overwhelm the immune system and devastate the body,” Dr. Ognjan said. “Until we have a viable vaccine for the coronavirus, there’s added importance to protect ourselves against those illnesses science and medicine have enabled us to defend against.”

When should you get your flu shot?

With physicians and medical professionals stressing more than ever before the importance of the flu vaccine, the question then becomes: When should I get the flu shot?

Does the COVID-19 pandemic mean the flu shot should be gotten sooner? Later?

“The presence of COVID-19 doesn’t affect the timing of the annual flu season,” Dr. Ognjan said. “We still recommend getting the shot early to ensure it’s effective by the start of the season and lasts all the way through.”

Dr. Ognjan recommends getting the shot in the middle October, but no later than the end of November.

The vaccine needs approximately two weeks to fully develop the antibodies to protect against a viral influenza infection, and getting the flu shot within that time frame should ensure that the body is protected when the peak of the season hits.