I know, I know. Everyone and their dog is reminding people to get their flu shot this year. But I had to get in on the act because we really need as many people vaccinated as possible (and because if I have to have a sore arm…)
So, here’s the skinny
No, the Flu Shot will not Protect you From COVID-19, But…
It would be nice if it did! But spreading this particular myth is doing nobody any favors. Don’t get your flu shot then run out without a mask.
However, there is no evidence, as has also been circulating, that getting the flu shot will interfere with your body’s ability to fight off other viruses. Vaccines do not weaken your immune system, even if you get more than one of them at the same time.
In fact, getting any kind of vaccination may support your innate immune system by giving it a bit of a “wake up call,” although the jury is still somewhat out on this.
Regardless, it won’t increase your risk.
Yes, You Can Get Two Viruses at Once
The flu sucks. COVID sucks worse.
What about getting both of them at the same time? It’s happened, and while we don’t have a lot of data, it definitely increases your risk of dying. That goes for anyone you’re around who can’t be vaccinated, too.
It’s possible that flu and COVID compete such that if you get the flu first, you’re less likely to get COVID. But…you probably don’t want to take that risk.
Getting the flu shot is your best chance of avoiding hideous coinfection.
Healthcare Doesn’t Need a Bad Flu Season
We may or may not get a huge fall wave of COVID-19. So far, the virus is not really acting in ways most experts predicted, and at this point it doesn’t seem to be seasonal.
And social distancing works for the flu too. But at the same time, we don’t need a bunch of people hospitalized with the flu and another bunch with COVID, putting strain on the healthcare system too.
It also puts strain on doctors when they have to play the wonderful game of “what virus does my patient have?” (Although we do apparently now have tests that allow providers to test you for both flu and COVID with one swab).
For that matter, none of us enjoy the “is this COVID or a cold or the flu or allergies or stress” game we’ve been playing for months. While the flu shot doesn’t completely prevent you from getting the flu, it should help reduce the number of times you’re left wondering whether you have the dreaded roni or not.
So, please get your flu shot this year, even if you normally don’t. Manufacturers have stepped up production (although there’s already a bit of a shortage of the high dose shot given to people over 65). Now is the right time to do it to help ensure that it lasts all flu season.
And keep wearing your mask.