State Health Officer

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Flu Vaccine Has Many Health Benefits, So Roll Up Your Sleeves

Each year the Alabama Department of Public Health urges all Alabamians to get an influenza (flu) vaccine, especially this year with COVID-19 virus circulating. Flu vaccine has important benefits, like reducing flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work, as well as preventing flu-related hospitalizations and deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts it is likely that flu viruses will spread along with the COVID-19 virus.

Flu and COVID-19 disease share many of the same symptoms, like fever, headache, sore throat, muscle aches, and fatigue, which may make it more difficult to diagnosis and treat. COVID-19 is caused by infection with the new coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2 and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. By getting your flu vaccine, it will reduce the chances of possible misdiagnosis and even worse, getting both diseases at the same time.

There are many flu viruses, and they are always changing. Each year a new flu vaccine is made to protect against three or four viruses that are likely to cause disease in the upcoming flu season. Even when the vaccine doesn’t exactly match these viruses, it may still provide some protection.

Vaccine facts and options are as follows:

  • It takes about 2 weeks for protection to develop after vaccination.
  • Influenza vaccine does not cause flu.
  • Influenza vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.
  • With rare exceptions, everyone 6 months of age and older should get an annual flu vaccine by the end of October.

Vaccination of high-risk persons is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness. People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic health conditions. People 65 years and older are also at higher risk from COVID-19. For more information about flu vaccine, please see the Influenza Fast Fact Flyer.

Influenza vaccination also is important for health care workers, and other people who live with or care for people at higher risk to keep from spreading flu to them. This is especially true for people who work in long-term care facilities, which are home to many of the people most vulnerable to flu and COVID-19. People who care for infants younger than 6 months should be vaccinated.

Flu vaccines will not prevent COVID-19, but they will reduce the burden of flu illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths on the health care system. CDC estimates that last season fewer than half of Americans got a flu vaccine and at least 410,000 people were hospitalized from flu. Increased vaccination coverage would reduce that burden. Flu takes a heavy toll on Alabamians, with 257 non-pediatric influenza-associated deaths in 2018, 93 deaths in 2019, and 2 pediatric deaths reported in state residents in each of these years.

I urge you to do your part to prevent influenza. Contact your private physician, pharmacy, or local county health department for a flu clinic schedule. To find a local provider who offers adult flu vaccine, please review the Adult Immunization Provider web page. The more people protected from influenza, the more health care resources will be available during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scott Harris, M.D.
State Health Officer

(September 2020)

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Page last updated: September 1, 2020