Getting your flu shot has always been recommended as a way of protecting yourself against contracting or spreading influenza, a serious disease that plagues millions each year.
This flu season, however, getting vaccinated is more important than ever, health experts warn, because of the spreading of the coronavirus pandemic across America.
“We are urging everyone to get vaccinated, because the influenza vaccine remains the most effective prevention against contracting the disease and its complications,” said Dr. David E. Bronstein, a pediatric infectious disease specialist who practices at Kaiser Permanente Antelope Valley Medical Offices in Palmdale.
“Catching the flu will compromise your immune system and potentially make you more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, which would result in dire consequences to your health. The flu is preventable, and the flu shot is our best defense against it,” Bronstein said.
Every year, the doctor said, millions of people get the flu, and hundreds of thousands of individuals end up in the emergency room or hospitalized. So it’s especially important for the most sensitive populations — which include the elderly, pregnant women, babies who are six months and older, along with those with chronic health conditions — to get vaccinated.
Unfortunately, studies show that there are significant health-related inequities in flu vaccination rates and flu-related complications, particularly in the Black and Latino communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Blacks and Latinos experience disproportionately higher rates of chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
These chronic health conditions place many Blacks and Latinos at a higher risk of severe flu complications.
“A common misconception is that a flu shot will give you the flu,” Bronstein said. “That’s simply not true. You cannot contract the flu from getting a flu shot. Side effects, when they do occur, are typically very mild.
“However, by not getting vaccinated, you put yourself and your loved ones at a greater risk of getting the flu, which causes serious illness, hospitalizations and thousands of deaths each year.”
This is especially true this year, Bronstein said, because the flu will weaken your immune system, making you more vulnerable to catching other infectious diseases, such as COVID-19. Having the flu and COVID-19 at the same time would be devastating to your health.
“It’s important to understand the benefits of flu immunizations, especially this year, which is why we strongly encourage everyone to get the flu shot,” the doctor stressed. “Getting vaccinated will protect your health, as well as reduce missed school and workdays.”