“Since hospitals and doctors’ offices are going to be very busy caring for Covid-19 patients, a flu vaccine can help decrease burdens on the health care system and make sure that those who need medical care are able to get it,” said Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association and an immunologist in Fort Worth, Texas.
It’s not just to free up resources for Covid-19 patients, though.
“Influenza is a deadly disease in its own right,” Bailey said.
In the 2019 to 2020 flu season, there were between 24,000 and 62,000 deaths from influenza in the United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with elderly people, young children and pregnant women at elevated risk. Getting a flu shot not only reduces the odds of getting sick, it often means a less severe illness.
In addition, evidence from last spring shows that it may be possible to get both coronavirus and influenza simultaneously. “We saw that in some of the early cases from this year, where patients had other viruses at the same time as they have Covid-19,” Bailey said.
And because flu symptoms — including fever, sore throat and cough — look so similar to Covid-19 symptoms, it will be impossible to rule out a coronavirus diagnosis without a test. That means a case of the flu, even if it turns out to be mild, can cause substantial disruption to work and school.