As if we didn’t have enough troubles with COVID-19 still very active throughout the country, flu season is just a month or two away.
Americans have grown complacent about flu; vaccination rates hover below 50%. This year the new coronavirus has complicated the picture.
Here are some questions, with answers by health leaders in Wisconsin:
When do you expect flu season to begin this year?
“Flu season should start similar to other seasons — October/November, but the number of cases is likely to be much less because of the mitigation efforts (for COVID-19) such as masking and social distancing. That does not negate the importance of getting a flu shot.” — Mary Beth Graham, Froedtert Hospital medical director, infection prevention and control, and associate chief in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Considering the greater danger is posed by COVID-19, why is it important that I get a flu shot?
“Influenza still leads to significant morbidity and mortality in the U.S. every year. The best way to prevent flu OR to decrease the severity of influenza is the vaccine.” — Mary Beth Graham.
How might a flu shot protect me — or add protection — against COVID-19?
“The vaccine (against) influenza will not protect against SARS-CoV-2. However, another respiratory illness might make it more difficult for the body to handle a co-infection with SARS-CoV-2 leading to a worse outcome.” —Mary Beth Graham.
Is it possible that I could get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time?
“Co-infection was reported early on in the pandemic, so yes, it can happen. The seriousness of such a co-infection would be influenced by the underlying medical conditions of the person infected (for example, it would be worse in those with chronic lung disease, the elderly and people who are immunocompromised).” Mary Beth Graham.
How early in life can children get the flu vaccine?
“Children can start getting vaccines at 6 months of age, which is highly recommended because young children are at very high risk for flu complications.” — Jill Weatherhead, assistant professor of tropical medicine and infectious disease at Baylor College of Medicine.
What is the best time of the year to get a flu shot?
“CDC recommends getting the vaccine before the end of October each year, but we still recommend that if you are not able to do so, you should still get it later in the season.” — Mary Beth Graham.
Where can I get a flu shot this year?
“You can get the flu shot at your local pharmacy or at your primary care physician’s clinic. Check with your employer to find out if they offer flu shots or contact your local health department. The City of Milwaukee Health Department offers flu shots. So do the Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee County health departments.