Should I get a flu shot this year?

Ask the doctors

Published: November, 2020

Q. I'm debating whether I need to get a flu shot this year. Do you think it's worthwhile?

A. The answer to this question is an emphatic yes. It's more important than ever to get a flu shot this year for a number of reasons. First, it will reduce your likelihood of contracting, being hospitalized for, or dying from influenza, which should be reason enough to roll up your sleeve. In addition, if you do get sick with the flu after being vaccinated, the vaccine can reduce the severity of your illness.

But amid the COVID-19 pandemic, getting a flu shot is important for other reasons as well. While the flu shot doesn't provide any protection against COVID-19, the health care system in many places is already facing a heavy burden from COVID-19 cases. So, reducing the number of flu cases through vaccination can help keep the system from becoming overwhelmed. In addition, doctors say it is possible to become infected with the flu and COVID-19 at the same time — which is not something you'd likely want to experience. Getting vaccinated can reduce your chances of this happening. Lastly, some of the symptoms of the flu are very similar to COVID-19, and you may think that you have one when you have the other. Vaccination against the flu will greatly reduce the risk of confusion.

To find a safe location to receive the flu vaccine, contact your doctor's office or the Harvard-affiliated Vaccine Finder website at vaccinefinder.org.

— by Toni Golen, M.D., and Hope Ricciotti, M.D.
Editors in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Image: © fstop123/Getty Images

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