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Flu Shot is Critical During COVID-19 Pandemic

woman in mask receiving winter 2020 and 2021 flu vaccine

Why to Get the Flu Vaccine in 2020-2021

By Gretchen Wagner, MD, Family Medicine Physician, Ascension Medical Group
Originally published on 10/5/2020 at 3:00 p.m. CDT

The air becoming crisp, leaves starting to fall and the presence of “get your flu shot here” signs at neighborhood clinics and pharmacies all indicate fall’s arrival. While the flu vaccine is an important prevention every year, this winter is gearing up to be an especially important one to schedule this quick and convenient appointment.

Reducing illness and hospitalization from influenza - commonly known as the “flu” - is critical to protect yourself, your loved ones and our frontline healthcare workers as they continue to care for people with COVID-19. The challenges brought about by this virus and the infection substantially complicate the standard protocols for dealing with the seasonal flu.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, last flu season, 42% of Wisconsinites received at least one dose of the flu vaccine, leaving nearly two-thirds of people at higher risk of getting the flu.

During Wisconsin’s 2019-2020 influenza season, there were 36,175 flu cases reported, 4,425 flu-related hospitalizations, and tragically, 183 deaths, including three children. Last year, we saw the highest number of pregnant women hospitalized for influenza.

COVID-19 and the 2020/2021 Winter Flu

Both influenza and COVID-19 are respiratory illnesses. Until we have a vaccine against COVID-19, the best way to help prevent these two viruses from circulating at the same time is to get your flu vaccine now.

Beyond preventing a season where the viruses are spreading simultaneously, preventive measures undertaken by schools and workplaces could mean further complications.

If you get the flu this year, you may be out longer from school or work, given that the symptoms are nearly indistinguishable between influenza and COVID-19. Even with COVID-19 testing, you may be required to stay home to protect others.

Who Should Get the Flu Vaccine in 2020/2021?

The Centers for Disease Control(CDC) recommends that everyone six months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season.

Some people may be scared or nervous to seek medical care at this time, but rest assured, safety precautions related to COVID-19 are in place. These precautions include social distancing and sanitizing at hospitals and clinics along with temperature checks and special scheduling to accommodate people seeking care during this time.

For additional information regarding safety precautions at Ascension facilities, please visit healthcare.ascension.org/covid-19.

Winter 2020/2021 Flu Prevention - Beyond the Shot

In addition to the flu vaccine, simple steps to curb the spread of COVID-19 are also successful for warding off the flu. Good hand hygiene, wearing a mask, social distancing and staying home - especially when you’re sick will limit the amount of potential virus exposure and spread.

We all need to do everything possible to make a difference this influenza season, so let’s keep people flu-free while we focus on ending COVID-19. Call your personal care physician today to schedule your flu shot.

For information on Ascension locations where you can get the flu shot or to see how your Network Health plan can help you avoid illnesses like the flu, contact us today.


About the Author

Gretchen Wagner, MD is a family medicine physician at Ascension Medical Group in Greenville. Dr. Wagner has a special interest in prenatal care, women’s health, chronic disease management, mental health including treatment of opioid use disorder, preventative and wellness care. To learn more about Dr. Wagner or schedule an appointment, click here.

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