The flu vaccine is more important than ever

SU Health Services

It’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both spread this fall and winter. Healthcare systems could be overwhelmed treating both patients with flu and patients with COVID-19. This means getting a flu vaccine during 2020-2021 is more important than ever.

We recommend the flu shot every year. But, with the unpredictability of COVID-19 circulating at the same time as the flu, the best measure is to decrease the possible impact on your respiratory system, including preventing the flu. The flu vaccine not only reduces your risk of illness but can prevent hospitalizations and deaths.

While getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, there are many important benefits. Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death. Getting a flu vaccine can also save healthcare resources for the care of patients with COVID-19. Flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick with flu.

Flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor’s visits each year. For example, during 2018-2019, flu vaccination prevented an estimated 4.4 million influenza illnesses, 2.3 million influenza-associated medical visits, 58,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations, and 3,500 influenza-associated deaths.

During seasons when the flu vaccine viruses are like circulating flu viruses, flu vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor with flu by 40 percent to 60 percent.

Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization for children, working age adults, and older adults. Flu vaccine prevents tens of thousands of hospitalizations each year. For example, during 2018-2019 flu vaccination prevented an estimated 58,000 flu-related hospitalizations.

A 2014 study showed that flu vaccine reduced children’s risk of flu-related pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) admission by 74% during flu seasons from 2010-2012. In recent years, flu vaccines have reduced the risk of flu-associated hospitalizations among older adults on average by about 40%.

A 2018 study showed that from 2012 to 2015, flu vaccination among adults reduced the risk of being admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) with flu by 82 percent.

Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions. Flu vaccination has been associated with lower rates of some cardiac events among people with heart disease, especially among those who had had a cardiac event in the past year. Flu vaccination can reduce worsening and hospitalization for flu-related chronic lung disease, such as in persons with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Flu vaccination also has been shown in separate studies to be associated with reduced hospitalizations among people with diabetes and chronic lung disease. Flu vaccination helps protect women during and after pregnancy. Vaccination reduces the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection in pregnant women by about one-half. A 2018 study that included influenza seasons from 2010-2016 showed that getting a flu shot reduced a pregnant woman’s risk of being hospitalized with flu by an average of 40 percent.

Several studies have shown that in addition to helping to protect pregnant women, a flu vaccine given during pregnancy helps protect the baby from flu for several months after birth, when he or she is not old enough to be vaccinated.

Flu vaccine can be lifesaving in children. A 2017 study was the first of its kind to show that flu vaccination can significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from flu.

Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions. Despite the many benefits offered by flu vaccination, only about half of Americans get an annual flu vaccine and flu continues to cause millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and tens of thousands of deaths.

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