While there isn’t yet a vaccine for the coronavirus, there is one for the flu. But when should you get it?
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recommends getting a flu shot by Oct. 31.
Fauci said the shot may “at least blunt the effect of one of the two potential respiratory infections.” And that was before a new study showed that flu shots may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Signs of the flu typically start in October.
While experts are saying to get the influenza shot before the end of October, you may want to delay that if you have a cold or other illness until you have recovered.
The flu sends hundreds of thousands of Americans to hospitals annually and causes tens of thousands of deaths, said Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security.
“Both the flu and the coronavirus are going to be competing for the same emergency department beds, the same hospital beds, the same ICU beds, the same mechanical ventilators, the same personal protective equipment,” Adalja said on CNBC Make It.
Flu season runs from November-April, but we often see earlier outbreaks, said Chief Medical Officer for Texas Children’s Pediatrics and Texas Children’s Urgent Care Dr. Stan Spinner.
“The best time to receive your flu vaccine is before the flu virus starts to spread throughout the community, so now is a good time to get your vaccine,” Spinner wrote. “Keep in mind, it takes two weeks for the flu vaccine to protect you once you receive the shot, so each week a person delays getting their flu shot will only increase the possibility of exposure without protection.”
What about all the social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing to protect against the coronavirus? Will those measures help people avoid the flu? Spinner said they should help with the flu, too, but don’t let your guard down.
“We should continue to wear masks and socially distance. That said, we do have a safe and effective vaccine for the flu currently available, so we absolutely need to take advantage of this and get vaccinated against the flu,” Spinner said.
In normal years, fewer than half of all Americans get the flu shot and just 60 percent of children get the shot, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows.
When it comes to kids, some states like Massachusetts require most public school students over age 6 months to get the flu vaccine this year, their state’s department of health said in August.
According to the CDC, the flu vaccine has reduced the risk of flu-associated hospitalizations among older adults by close to 40%.
Dr. Fauci recently told CNBC that the pandemic will not be over anytime soon. Even if a vaccine becomes available late this year or early in 2021, distributing the drug and getting most of the population vaccinated will take time.