This summer has been anything but routine for most of us. The coming fall and winter appear to be more of the same with phrases like “the new normal” and “twindemic” becoming part of everyday conversations. The concept of 'normal' will be put on hold for the next 4 to 6 months as we balance the current PHE alongside seasonal influenza.
There is no approved vaccine for COVID-19 at the end of October and it will be several months before we see the first approved candidate and it begins distribution. However, there are multiple proven influenza vaccines available which can lessen the impact of the 2020-2021 flu season.
Many Americans likely have some anxiety about the upcoming flu season. To help reduce that stress, be sure to urge your patients to get their flu shot. If they are hesitant, remind them that:
- -- The vaccine will not give them the flu. But it does take time (up to two weeks) to provide the full immune response. If a patient catches the flu days after getting the shot, it is bad timing but not the fault of the vaccine.
- -- If they did catch the flu, having the vaccine onboard lends to less severe progression and less likelihood for hospitalization. If a patient is in any of the higher risk categories for severe COVID-19 progression, this becomes very important.
- -- Hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and tens of thousands of premature deaths occur annually because of influenza. This year many hospitals will not have the capacity due to COVID-19. But the flu vaccines provide reduced risk to the tune of 40 – 60%, with the more common strains at the 60% end of the range.
Although September and October are the recommended times per the CDC, getting the shot at any time will provide a benefit. For the most vulnerable and at-risk, getting the shot earlier is better – ideally before January.
If patients want additional information, be sure to have a patient handout available or direct them to the CDC’s Influenza page.