With the predictions of post-Thanksgiving spikes in the number of COVID-19 cases turning out to be chillingly true, we’d like to offer a gentle reminder that there are steps we can take to help our overtaxed health care professionals cope with this latest sinister chapter of the pandemic.
An important step is to get your flu shot.
No, the flu shot won’t prevent COVID-19. It may not even prevent the flu. The Centers for Disease Control notes that “Influenza (flu) vaccine effectiveness (VE) can vary. The protection provided by a flu vaccine varies from season to season and depends in part on the age and health status of the person getting the vaccine and the similarity or ‘match’ between the viruses in the vaccine and those in circulation.”
In other words, there’s no guarantee that a flu shot is going to work. But we guarantee that not having a flu shot is definitely not going to work.
A flu shot can radically lower the odds of a flu death, a flu hospitalization or several days of misery homebound in bed.
So, what does this have to do with COVID-19?
Well, some symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 overlap. Getting a flu shot can cut down on the chance of a misdiagnosis between the two. And should the vaccination keep you free of the flu, it will also help keep you from having to seek out emergency care. That’s important, because it means resources will remain freed up for coronavirus patients. Worries about a major flu outbreak coinciding with the COVID pandemic – dubbed a “twindemic’’ in some corners – are legit. COVID has the potential to crash the health care system. Coupled with a major flu outbreak that possibility is virtually a guarantee.
The recommended date offered by the CDC to receive a vaccination was by the end of October, as it takes a couple of weeks for antibodies to develop that protect us against the flu. But there’s plenty of flu season remaining, and plenty of opportunities to protect yourself if you’ve not had a shot this year.
It’s estimated that nationwide, flu shots prevent 3 million medical visits and 91,000 hospitalizations a year. Sadly, less than half of Americans take this readily-available preventative step annually.
Over the last 10 years, according to N.C. Health Secretary Mandy Cohen, 1,500 North Carolinians have lost their lives to the flu.
Since March 12, more than 5,000 North Carolinians have lost their lives to COVID-19.
We need every arrow in the quiver to be deployed against this pandemic. A flu shot is an important tool.
We should take advantage of it.