Guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC)
Do we need to get a flu vaccine earlier this year (i.e. July/August)?
While the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has not yet voted on the flu vaccine recommendations for 2020-2021, CDC does not anticipate a major change in the recommendation on timing of vaccination. Getting vaccinated in July or earlier in August is too early, especially for older people, because of the likelihood of reduced protection against flu infection later in the flu season. From now and into September and October are good times to get vaccinated. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue, even in January or later.
Will there be changes in how and where flu vaccine is given this fall and winter?
How and where people get a flu vaccine will need to change due to the COVID-19 pandemic. CDC is working with healthcare providers and state and local health departments to develop contingency plans on how to vaccinate people against flu without increasing their risk of exposure to respiratory germs, like the virus that causes COVID-19. Some settings that usually provide flu vaccine, like workplaces and community flu clinics, may not offer vaccination this upcoming season, because of the challenges with maintaining social distancing.
What is the difference between Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19?
Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2) and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. 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, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis. Flu and COVID-19 share many characteristics, but there are some key differences between the two.
Will there be flu along with COVID-19 in the fall and winter?
While it’s not possible to say with certainty what will happen in the fall and winter, CDC believes it’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading. In this context, getting a flu vaccine will be more important than ever. CDC recommends that all people 6 months and older get a yearly flu vaccine.
Can I have flu and COVID-19 at the same time?
Yes. It is possible have flu, as well as other respiratory illnesses, and COVID-19 at the same time. Health experts are still studying how common this can be. Some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, making it hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Diagnostic testing can help determine if you are sick with flu or COVID-19.
Is COVID-19 more dangerous than flu?
Flu and COVID-19 can both result in serious illness, including illness resulting in hospitalization or death. While there is still much to learn about COVID-19, at this time, it does seem as if COVID-19 is more deadly than seasonal influenza; however, it is too early to draw definitive conclusions from the current data.
Will a flu vaccine protect me against COVID-19?
Getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, however flu vaccination has many other important benefits, including keeping you from getting sick with the flu, reducing the severity of your illness if you do get the flu and reducing your risk of a flu associated hospitalization. Getting a flu vaccine this fall will be more important than ever, not only to reduce your risk from flu but also to help conserve potentially scarce health care resources and lessen further strain on the healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccination of people at high risk is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness. Many people at higher risk from flu also seem to be at higher risk from COVID-19 (e.g., adults 65 and older, patients with chronic medical conditions like asthma, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, pregnant women, etc.). If you are at high risk it is especially important to get a flu vaccine this flu season. Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization and death.
Should a flu vaccine be given to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19?
No. Vaccination should be deferred (postponed) for people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, regardless of whether they have symptoms, until they have met the criteria to discontinue their isolation. While mild illness is not a contraindication to flu vaccination, vaccination visits for these people should be postponed to avoid exposing healthcare personnel and other patients to the virus that causes COVID-19. When scheduling or confirming appointments for vaccination, patients should be instructed to notify the provider’s office or clinic in advance if they currently have or develop any symptoms of COVID-19. Additionally, a prior infection with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 or flu does not protect someone from future flu infections. The best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated every year.
If you would like any further information about the influenza vaccine and the ACIP recommendations, please click on the link: www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/acip