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A Flu Shot is Even More Important This Year

By Dr. Gregory T. Williams
Chief of Infectious Disease

We’ve all heard a lot about the need to get vaccinated for COVID-19. We want to make sure you don’t forget about another very important vaccination – your annual flu shot.

Last year, COVID-19 safety measures helped reduce the number of flu cases in the U.S. However, today people are returning to work and school, and may not be social distancing, washing hands, or wearing a mask nearly as often. So, this year’s flu season is expected to be worse than last year.

Getting the flu isn’t just inconvenient, it can be dangerous. Many people, particularly older adults, may develop severe or life-threatening complications from the flu. Getting a flu shot can save you from serious illness and even death. Below you’ll find answers to various questions about the flu and COVID-19 vaccinations.

I’m feeling sick, how do I know if it’s the flu or COVID-19?

There are many similarities between the flu and COVID-19, including fever, having chills, coughing, shortness of breath, sore throat, fatigue, runny or stuffy nose, headache, and aches and pains (as well as others). Because the symptoms can be similar for both viruses, a diagnosis cannot be made on symptoms alone. Testing is needed for a proper diagnosis, which is why your doctor may recommend both COVID-19 and flu testing at the same time. If you are having symptoms, contact your Reliant PCP.

If I am vaccinated for COVID-19, do I still have to get the flu shot?

Yes. The COVID-19 vaccine will not protect you from influenza. The best way to reduce your risk from seasonal flu and the potentially serious complications is to get vaccinated every year.

Who is at high risk for complications from the flu?

Both the flu and COVID-19 can result in severe illness and complications. Those at higher risk include:

  • Older adults (65+)
  • Pregnant women
  • People with underlying medical conditions (including children and infants)

If I have already had COVID-19, can I get the flu?

Yes, because they are caused by different viruses you can get the flu after recovering from COVID-19. You can even get both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time and have symptoms of both. This is why it’s so important to be vaccinated against both viruses.

How can I best protect myself and my family from getting the flu this season?

According to the CDC, everyone six months and older should receive the flu vaccine each year, ideally by the end of October. Vaccination is especially important for those at higher risk of complications from the flu – including pregnant woman, young children, people with chronic conditions such as asthma or heart disease, and people 65 or older. It’s easy to schedule your flu shot by contacting your Reliant primary care provider’s office or you can book an appointment directly through MyChart. In addition to getting vaccinated, these general safety tips can help reduce your risk of catching or spreading the flu:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • If you are sick, limit contact with others to avoid infecting them
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that may be contaminated with the virus that causes the flu (or COVID-19).
  • Where a mask to protect yourself when appropriate
  • Take flu antiviral drugs if they are prescribed to you.
A Flu Shot is Even More Important This Year

About Gregory T. Williams, MD, Chief of Infectious Disease

Ever since he was a child, Dr. Greg T. Williams knew he wanted to be a doctor. “It was just one of those things, I always knew I wanted to be in medicine. I think it was a combination of enjoying science and wanting to help others that led me to decide to become a doctor,” he explains.

Dr. Williams works in the Division of Infectious Disease at Reliant Medical Group, helping to diagnose and treat a wide range of viral, bacterial,...

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