This Year’s Flu Vaccine Could Be the Most Important One You Ever Get

You really don’t want to catch both the flu and Covid-19

Robert Roy Britt
Elemental
Published in
5 min readJul 27, 2020

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Photo: scyther5/Getty Images

The last thing you need this fall and winter is to catch the flu and Covid-19 at the same time, or in rapid succession because your defenses are down after one illness, making you more vulnerable to the other.

With that in mind, this year’s flu vaccine could serve as a vital shot in the arm for public health and society’s effort to avoid dual epidemics that could overwhelm the already overburdened health care system and its exhausted doctors and nurses.

“This is the year that everyone should be getting the flu shot,” says Richard Ellison, MD, a professor of medicine and an expert in infectious diseases and immunology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

With Covid-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths rising across the country, experts fear the pandemic will worsen this fall, when cooler weather drives people indoors. Flu season starts in October and peaks from December into February. The severity can’t be predicted, but in recent years flu deaths have ranged from roughly 12,000 to 61,000, with as many as 800,000 hospitalizations in a bad year.

When people die of the flu, it’s usually because they get a secondary infection of bacterial pneumonia.

No Covid-19 vaccine is expected until at best early next year, experts say. But the flu vaccine will be available in September.

Yes, you can catch both (and no, you don’t want to)

Researchers don’t know the likelihood of catching the flu and coronavirus at once, but it definitely can happen, Ellison and other infectious-disease experts say.

Dual infections are generally not uncommon. It’s known, for example, that people can contract a flu virus atop a cold virus, or vice versa, says virologist Andrea Amalfitano, DO, dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Michigan State University. When people die of the flu, it’s usually because they get a secondary infection of bacterial pneumonia, Amalfitano points out.

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Robert Roy Britt
Elemental

Editor of Aha! and Wise & Well on Medium + the Writer's Guide at writersguide.substack.com. Author of Make Sleep Your Superpower: amazon.com/dp/B0BJBYFQCB