It’s getting cooler outside, meaning people across the country will be moving activities indoors – and this is when the flu normally takes hold. Now is the time to get a flu shot.
Last year’s flu rates were historically low, largely credited to masking, social distancing, remote work and learning, and avoiding crowds. As many activities have resumed, some experts warn that infection rates for both flu and COVID-19 could rise this winter.
Many people at higher risk for flu are also at higher risk for COVID-19, but there are ways to reduce risks for severe disease from both.
Getting both vaccines is the best way to avoid illness this flu season. No one gets the flu from the flu shot, just as no one can contract COVID from the COVID vaccines. Conversely, flu vaccination reduces the risk of illness by more than 50%, and studies show the COVID vaccines are even more effective at preventing severe illness, even with the rise in variants.
Time for a booster? It’s OK to receive both vaccines at the same time. The CDC website shows who is eligible for COVID-19 booster shots based on approvals for the different manufacturers. If you are getting a COVID-19 vaccine, you may be able to get your flu shot during the same visit.
Ideally, you should get your flu shot by the end of October annually but as we are entering the winter months it is important to get your flu shot as soon as possible. If you are not eligible for a COVID-19 booster until much later, you should get your flu shot now and then follow up when the time is right for the COVID-19 booster.
The flu vaccine may be as nearby as your local pharmacy. Most pharmacies accept walk-ins and most insurance. Visit my-flu-shot.com to find pharmacies offering flu shots this year. If you are seeking vaccines for a child, check to see what ages the pharmacy is certified to vaccinate.
If you have insurance, the shot will likely cost you nothing. Most health insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover flu shots at no cost. No-cost transportation may also be available for members in select Medicaid and Medicare plans. If you don’t have transportation through your health plan and need help finding a ride, you can the Amerigroup Maryland Resource Link to find assistance at https://www.myamerigroup.com/md/support/community-support.html.
Data from Anthem, the parent company of Amerigroup Maryland, shows only half of adults and children received a flu shot last season, we are reaching out to those at risk for complications from the flu and COVID-19 to increase awareness of the importance of the flu shot and decrease barriers to receiving it.
We are also taking our message to the community, partnering with the American Lung Association to provide digital educational tools and resources to empower employers, community leaders, and the general public to take control of their health and help minimize their risk, and the risk of others, in contracting the flu.
This is a critical moment, and we all have an opportunity to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities. Amerigroup Maryland encourages everyone eligible to get their flu shot, in addition to their COVID vaccines – it’s our best shot at staying healthy this flu season.
Dr. Rinku Mehra is a pediatric endocrinologist and medical director for Amerigroup Maryland.