During the coronavirus pandemic, health experts say its more important than ever to get a flu shot. In previous years, sneezes and sniffles were automatically thought of as a sign of the flu. Now, they can also be symptoms of COVID-19. Below is some information about the flu shot and COVID-19.
- When’s the best time to get a flu shot
- General flu information
- Flu vs. COVID-19
- Information about 2020-2021 flu vaccines
- Similarities and differences between flu and COVID-19
Q: When is the best time to get a flu shot?
A: The CDC says September and October are good times to get vaccinated. New Mexico Secretary for the Human Services Department, Dr. David Scrase is also urging New Mexicans to get their flu shots as soon as possible.
“The influenza vaccine sort of peaks your immunity at about three to four months and then it kind of goes back down again which is why we have to get a flu shot every year because you have to renew that immunity that you get,” Dr. Scrase said. “I’m gonna tell my patients probably somewhere mid to late September to late October.”
The CDC also says as long as flu viruses are circulating, people may need to be vaccinated again, even in January or later.
Q: Who should get the flu shot?
A: Everyone who is able to get the flu shot (6 months and older) should get vaccinated. According to the CDC, during the COVID-19 pandemic, reducing the overall burden of respiratory illnesses is important to protect vulnerable populations at risk for severe illness, the healthcare system, and other critical infrastructure. The CDC also says,
healthcare providers should use every opportunity during the influenza vaccination season to administer influenza vaccines to all eligible persons, including;
- Essential workers: Including healthcare personnel (including nursing home, long-term care facility, and pharmacy staff) and other critical infrastructure workforce
- People at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19: Including adults aged 65 years and older, residents in a nursing home or long-term care facility, and persons of all ages with certain underlying medical conditions.
- People at increased risk for serious influenza complications: Including infants and young children, children with neurologic conditions, pregnant women, adults aged 65 years and older, and other persons with certain underlying medical conditions
Q: Who should not get the flu shot?
A: Children younger than 6 months of age are too young to get the flu shot, according to the CDC. They also say people with severe, life-threatening allergies to the flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine should not get the flu shot. See Special Considerations Regarding Egg Allergy for more information about egg allergies and flu vaccine.
Q: Can you still get the flu after getting the vaccine?
A: No, the flu vaccines cannot cause flu illness. According to the CDC, flu vaccines given with a needle are made with either inactivated (killed) viruses. The nasal spray vaccine contains live viruses that are weakened so they will not cause illnesses.
Flu vs. COVID-19
Q: Can I have flu and COVID-19 at the same time?
A: Yes. According to the CDC, it is possible to have the flu as well as other respiratory illnesses and COVID-19 at the same time. Health experts are still studying how common this can be.
Some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, which makes it hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Diagnostic testing can help determine if you are sick with flu or COVID-19.
Q: Can the flu shot prevent COVID-19?
A: No. Even though COVID-19 has been compared to the flu and shares similar symptoms, they are not the same.
Q: Is COVID-19 more dangerous than the flu?
A: The flu and COVID-19 can both result in serious illness, including illness resulting in hospitalization or death. At this time, there is still much to learn about COVID-19.
Q: Is it too late to get vaccinated after Thanksgiving (or the end of November)?
A: No. Vaccination can still be beneficial as long as flu viruses are circulating. If you have not been vaccinated by Thanksgiving (or the end of November), it can still be protective to get vaccinated in December or later.
Q: Why do some people not feel well after getting a seasonal flu vaccine?
A: Some people report having mild side effects after getting the flu vaccination. The flu vaccine side effects are generally mild and go away on their own within a few days. Some side effects that may occur from a flu shot include soreness, redness, and/or swelling where the shot was given, headache (low grade), fever, nausea, muscle aches, and fatigue. The flu shot, like other injections, can occasionally cause fainting.
Side effects from the nasal spray flu vaccine may include runny nose, wheezing, headache, vomiting, muscle aches, fever, sore throat and cough. The CDC states they usually begin soon after vaccination and are mild or short-lived.
Q: What about people who get a seasonal flu vaccine and still get sick with flu symptoms?
A: There are a few reasons why someone might get flu symptoms, even after they have been vaccinated against the flu, according to the CDC.
- Some people can become ill from other respiratory viruses besides flu such as rhinoviruses, which are associated with the common cold, cause symptoms similar to flu, and also spread and cause illness during the flu season. The flu vaccine only protects against the flu, not other illnesses.
- It is possible to be exposed to flu viruses, which cause flu, shortly before getting vaccinated or during the two-week period after vaccination that it takes the body to develop immune protection. This exposure may result in a person becoming ill with flu before protection from vaccination takes effect.
- Some people may experience flu symptoms despite getting vaccinated is that they may have been exposed to a flu virus that is very different from the viruses the vaccine is designed to protect against.
- Some people may still experience flu symptoms after being vaccinated because flu vaccines vary in how well they work and some people who get vaccinated still get sick.
2020-2021 Flu Vaccines
Q: What flu vaccines are recommended this season?
A: The CDC says for the 2020-2021 flu season, providers may choose to administer any licensed, age-appropriate flu vaccine (IIV, RIV4, or LAIV4) with no preference for any one vaccine over another.
Vaccine options this season include:
- Standard dose flu shots.
- High-dose shots for people 65 years and older.
- Shots made with adjuvant for people 65 years and older.
- Shots made with virus grown in cell culture. No eggs are involved in the production of this vaccine.
- Shots made using a vaccine production technology (recombinant vaccine) that do not require having a candidate vaccine virus (CVV) sample to produce.
- Live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV). – A vaccine made with attenuated (weakened) live virus that is given by nasal spray.
Q: What viruses will the 2020-2021 flu vaccines protect against?
A: There are many different types of flu viruses and they are constantly changing. The CDC states, the composition of U.S. flu vaccines is reviewed annually and updated as needed to match circulating flu viruses. Flu vaccines protect against three or four viruses that research suggests will be the most common.
For 2020-2021, trivalent (three-component) egg-based vaccines are recommended to contain:
- A/Guangdong-Maonan/SWL1536/2019 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus (updated)
- A/Hong Kong/2671/2019 (H3N2)-like virus (updated)
- B/Washington/02/2019 (B/Victoria lineage)-like virus (updated)
Quadrivalent (four-component) egg-based vaccines, which protect against a second lineage of B viruses, are recommended to contain:
- The three recommended viruses above, plus B/Phuket/3073/2013-like (Yamagata lineage) virus.
For 2020-2021, cell- or recombinant-based vaccines are recommended to contain:
- A/Hawaii/70/2019 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus (updated)
- A/Hong Kong/45/2019 (H3N2)-like virus (updated)
- B/Washington/02/2019 (B/Victoria lineage)-like virus (updated)
- B/Phuket/3073/2013-like (Yamagata lineage) virus
Q: Are there any new vaccines licensed for use during the 2020-2021 flu season?
A: For the 2020-2021 flu season, there are two new vaccines licensed for use.
- The first is a quadrivalent high-dose vaccine licensed for use in adults 65 years and older. This vaccine will replace the previously licensed trivalent high-dose vaccine.
- The second new vaccine that will be available is a quadrivalent adjuvanted vaccine licensed for use in adults 65 years and older.
- This vaccine is similar to the previously licensed trivalent vaccine containing MF59 adjuvant, but it has one additional influenza B component.
The flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses and are caused by different viruses. However, they both have many similar symptoms that can make it hard to tell the difference. Common symptoms that COVID-19 and the flu share include:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle pain or body aches
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults
According to the CDC, flu viruses can cause mild to severe illness, including common signs and symptoms listed above.
Other signs and symptoms of COVID-19, different from flu, may include change in or loss of taste or smell.
Source: KRQE NM