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Preparing for the 2020-21 Flu Season 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to get a flu vaccine. Getting vaccinated helps reduce your risk of flu-related illness, reduces the burden on the health care system and protects our most vulnerable. The resources below can help you learn more about the vaccine and the best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu and its potentially serious complications.

A Video Message from our Chief Medical Officer, Thomas Schenk, M.D.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Flu Vaccine Recommendations 

Why do I need to get an influenza (flu) vaccine?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to get a flu vaccine:
  • It’s the best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu and its potentially serious complications
  • It’s especially important to keep the burden on our health care system as low as possible, minimizing hospitalizations
  • Being vaccinated helps to protect the most vulnerable in our community

Is it safe to get a flu vaccine?

Yes. You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine, and clinicians will follow strict guidelines to safely provide the flu vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone six months of age and older receive the flu vaccine every year. This includes:

  • Pregnant women or women who may become pregnant during flu season
  • Nursing home residents
  • People with chronic health conditions
  • Caregivers and health care personnel
  • People with egg allergies (people with severe egg allergies should be vaccinated in a medical setting and supervised by a health care provider)

When is the best time to get a flu vaccine?

The flu season usually runs from November through April, so the best time to get your flu vaccine is September, October, or November. Vaccines given after November still provide protection, so it’s never too late to get one while flu is circulating in our community.

How long does the flu vaccine last?

The CDC recommends that everyone six months of age and older receive the flu every year. This is because the vaccination’s protection will decline over time and because the flu viruses are constantly changing. 

Where can I get a flu vaccine?

Your doctor should have the vaccine available beginning in September, and many pharmacies offer convenient “walk-in” flu vaccine clinics with no appointment needed. Some employers also host clinics on-site for your convenience.

Who should NOT get a flu vaccine?

Talk with your doctor before getting a flu vaccine if you’ve ever had a serious reaction to a previous flu vaccine, including Guillain-Barre Syndrome. If you’re sick with a moderate-to-severe illness, talk to your doctor or nurse about getting the vaccine at a later date.

Should I still get the flu vaccine if I have a heart condition, diabetes, or COPD?

  • Yes — individuals with any underlying health conditions have an increased risk of severe illness from the flu, especially those with heart disease, diabetes, or COPD 
  • If you have an underlying health condition, getting vaccinated can help protect you from serious flu complications
  • For more information, visit the CDC website 

What factors increase your risk of complications from the flu?

  • Weakened immune system
  • Underlying conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, liver disorders, metabolic disorders, heart disease, or COPD
  • Age — children under two and those ages 65 and older are especially vulnerable to complications from the flu
  • For more information, visit the CDC website   

Symptoms and Prevention

Are the symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu the same?

Common symptoms that COVID-19 and flu share include:

  • 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

Other signs and symptoms of COVID-19, different from flu, may include change in or loss of taste or smell. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. If you or a family member are symptomatic, you should call your doctor who may recommend testing to help confirm a diagnosis.

What else should I do to prevent flu?

In addition to getting vaccinated, all the precautions you are taking to prevent COVID-19 infection are also helpful in preventing the flu. Thoroughly washing your hands, social distancing and wearing a mask are all good strategies to avoid getting the flu.

Cost 

How much do flu vaccines cost?

Most plans offer flu vaccines at no cost. For more information, call the customer service number on the back of your ID card.

Resources

Where can I get more information about flu and the flu vaccine?

Visit cdc.gov/flu for more information about flu. In addition, ny.gov and your local health department also offer useful information.

In The News

September 3, 2020 | Source: BCBSWNY

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