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Don’t Forget Your Annual Flu Vaccine

September 22, 2021
Sean Haley, M.D. MPH, is a family medicine physician specializing in full-spectrum care and public health.

By: Dr. Sean Haley

While many of us are preoccupied with discussions around the COVID-19 vaccine, it's important to keep in mind that influenza (flu) season is around the corner. The flu is a respiratory infection that can cause serious complications, particularly in young children and the elderly, and circulates the most in the fall and winter. The flu vaccine is the best way to protect both kids and adults as it significantly reduces the risk of serious infection.

Benefits of Getting the Flu Vaccine

  • The flu vaccine can keep you from getting ill with (and hospitalized with) the flu. According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), flu vaccination prevented an estimated 7.5 million flu illnesses, 3.7 million flu-associated medical visits, 105,000 flu-associated hospitalizations, and 6,300 flu-associated deaths during the 2019-2020 flu season.
  • It can be an important preventative tool for people with certain cardiac health conditions. Flu vaccination has been associated with lower rates of some cardiac events among people with heart disease.
  • It can help pregnant people during and after pregnancy. The flu vaccine reduces the risk of respiratory infection or flu-related hospitalization for pregnant people and it helps to protect newborn babies for several months after birth.
  • The flu vaccine can save the lives of children. In 2017, a study showed that flu vaccination significantly reduces a child’s risk of dying from the flu.
  • You can be a hero. Getting the vaccine yourself can help protect everyone around you. This includes the most vulnerable, such as infants, the immunocompromised and people over 65.

COVID & the Flu

In light of COVID, it's especially important to get vaccinated against the flu before flu season has a chance to take hold. Here's why:

  • COVID and the flu spread in many of the same ways. Where there's a high transmission of COVID, there's likely to be a high transmission of the flu, too.
  • Since many symptoms of COVID and the flu — like fatigue, fever, chills, sore throat, and body aches — overlap, getting the flu vaccine can help rule out the flu should you have respiratory issues.
  • Reducing the spread of flu illnesses will also reduce some of the stress that's on our health care system right now.
  • There is concern that being infected with both the flu and COVID at the same time could worsen symptoms and outcomes.

Who Can Get the Flu Vaccine?

Most adults and children six months and older should get a flu shot. If you or your child have medical conditions, consult your provider first.

Healthy Habits During Flu Season

Many of the same COVID precautions can be taken into consideration to slow the spread of the flu. Those healthy habits include:

  • Washing your hands
  • Covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze
  • Staying home when you feel unwell
  • Cleaning frequently touched surfaces, especially when someone is sick
  • Wearing a mask
  • Avoiding close contact with sick people
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Being physically active
  • Being mindful of stress management
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Eating nutritiously

Schedule Your Flu Shot Now

Established patients can make an appointment online through MyChart. New patients please call 843-792-7000 to schedule.

Sean Haley, M.D. MPH, is a family medicine physician specializing in full-spectrum care and public health. He is based at MUSC Health University Family Medicine - Peninsula in Charleston.