5 truths about flu vaccines

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(BPT) - Did you know if you or a loved one are living with certain chronic health conditions like heart disease, asthma, diabetes or kidney disease, you are at higher risk of developing serious complications from flu, which can lead to hospitalization or even death? Many people are unaware that their chronic health condition places them at higher risk for flu complications, even if their condition is well-managed. This is why getting vaccinated against flu every year is so crucial; it is the most important and first step in being protected from flu.

If you or someone you care about lives with certain chronic health conditions, make sure you know these five flu truths:

Truth #1: CDC is preparing for a resurgence of flu this season.

Most years, flu is associated with millions of illnesses, tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. While flu activity last season was historically low, flu remains a significant health concern this fall and winter.

With many places relaxing strict COVID-19 preventive measures, like school and business closures, masking and social distancing, we are seeing the return of other respiratory viruses. CDC is preparing for flu to follow. Because there was so little flu last season, and population immunity may be reduced, we may see more flu illness this upcoming season and it could be severe.

For this reason, vaccination is very important — especially for people at higher risk of serious flu complications, including those with certain chronic health conditions. Getting a flu vaccine is your best shot at protecting yourself and those around you against flu as the world safely returns to work, travel and other in-person activities.

Truth #2: People with certain underlying health conditions are more likely to get seriously sick with flu.

People with certain underlying health conditions experience serious complications from flu more often. During previous seasons, 9 out of 10 flu hospitalizations reported to CDC were in people who had one or more underlying health conditions. These can include:

  • Asthma
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Heart disease
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Gastrointestinal (GI)/liver disease
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Immune suppression
  • Metabolic disease
  • Neurologic disease
  • Obesity
  • Renal or kidney disease

For more information on who is at higher risk of developing serious flu complications visit CDC’s People at Higher Risk of Flu Complications webpage.

Truth #3: Yearly flu vaccines protect against serious flu illness.

Flu viruses are constantly changing, and multiple flu viruses can circulate at the same time during any given flu season. Because of this, flu vaccines are updated each year — in fact, two of the viruses included in this year’s vaccine were updated from last year to better match flu viruses that are expected to spread in the U.S. this season. Getting an annual flu vaccine is recommended and the best way to help protect against the flu viruses expected to spread each year.

Also, although no vaccine is 100% effective at preventing all illnesses, flu vaccines offer important protection against flu illness, hospitalization and death. In fact, several studies show flu vaccination reduces the severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick, including reducing the risk of hospitalization and death. Flu vaccines can reduce the risk of cardiac events among people with heart disease, flu-related worsening of chronic lung disease and diabetes-related hospitalization.

Truth #4: Flu, COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses often have similar symptoms.

Flu, COVID-19, the common cold and other respiratory illnesses are all caused by different viruses. However, some of the symptoms of these illnesses are similar, so it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Diagnostic testing can help tell if you are sick with flu, COVID-19 or another respiratory illness.

Flu symptoms usually come on suddenly and can include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches and fatigue (tiredness)

Truth #5: CDC recommends COVID-19 AND flu vaccination this season.

COVID-19 vaccines can be given with other vaccines, including flu vaccine, on the same day or at any other time interval. While limited data exist on giving COVID-19 vaccines with others, experience with giving different vaccines together shows our bodies develop protection, and we experience possible side effects, in a similar way whether vaccines are given alone or with others.

By being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and flu, you can help protect yourself from two potentially serious respiratory illnesses that CDC expects will spread this fall and winter. If you haven’t gotten your currently recommended doses of COVID-19 vaccine, get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you can, and ideally get a flu vaccine by the end of October.

Get vaccinated now to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community from flu.

We can all fight flu. Visit cdc.gov for the latest information about your flu risk and to learn more about how you can prevent flu.