This year, it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated against the flu. The flu vaccine can keep you from getting and spreading the flu to others during the COVID-19 pandemic and help keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed.
If you have symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, or body aches, you should call your healthcare provider. COVID-19 and the flu can look and feel very similar, so it is important to get tested for COVID-19 if you have any of those symptoms. Also, COVID-19 and the flu are treated differently, which means you’ll need your healthcare provider’s help to figure out what kind of illness you have and how to treat it.
When should I get the flu vaccine?
You should get your flu vaccine before the end of October for the best protection through the winter months when the flu is most likely to spread. However, flu vaccines will still be available for several months after October and will still offer protection through the end of the flu season in the spring.
How can I safely get a flu vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic?
You take precautions to run errands in a COVID-safe way, and you should take the same precautions while getting your flu vaccine. Wear a face covering, wash your hands often, and stay six feet away from others while you are out.
Clinics and pharmacies are also following special safety guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, there may be options like drive-through vaccination clinics, or you may be asked to wait outside or in your car until your appointment time to limit the number of people in the building. Call your clinic or pharmacy, or call one on this list, and ask how to get a flu vaccine safely.
Does my insurance cover the flu vaccine?
Most insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare part B, cover the cost of the flu vaccine for adults. If you do not have insurance, you may still be able to get the flu vaccine at no cost. Talk to your healthcare provider, or one on this list.
Children aged 18 and under in Washington can get a flu vaccine and other recommended vaccines at no cost. The provider may charge an administration fee to give the vaccine. You can ask them to waive this fee if you cannot afford it.
Can I get the flu from the flu vaccine?
No. Flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. It does not contain the live virus.
Does the flu vaccine work?
Flu vaccine effectiveness can vary from year to year. It depends on the match between the strains in the vaccine and the flu viruses that are circulating. It also depends on the age and health of the person being vaccinated.
No flu vaccine is 100 percent effective but it can provide moderate protection for about one year. It can also help reduce the severity of the flu if you do get sick. Flu vaccine helps prevent illness; it doesn’t treat it.
More information on flu vaccine effectiveness here.
Could I get COVID-19 and the Flu at the same time?
Yes. 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.
Remember, some symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, making it hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Call your healthcare provider for help with diagnosis and treatment.
Questions and Answers about Influenza (Flu). The Washington State Department of Health, accessed October 8, 2020. https://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/IllnessandDisease/Flu/QuestionsandAnswers
Flu Vaccine Safety Information. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, updated September 17, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/general.htm
Vaccine Effectiveness: How Well Do the Flu Vaccines Work? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, updated January 3, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/vaccineeffect.htm
Similarities and Differences between Flu and COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, updated October 6, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/flu-vs-covid19.htm