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Sharp Health News

Should I get the flu shot if I had COVID-19?

Nov. 13, 2020

Nurse with a mask administering a flu shot
Can you imagine having both the flu and COVID-19 in a single season? While it sounds like a miserable proposition, it is possible.

The likelihood of an overwhelming number of cases of both illnesses — what some are calling a “twindemic” — is concerning medical experts around the globe. Not only are many people — especially those with chronic illness and advanced age — at high risk for severe illness caused by both diseases, but some hospitals might not have the resources to care for the increased number of severely ill patients.

One possible solution for lightening the load of illnesses in each region is to encourage everyone who is able to get the flu vaccine. Vaccination prevents flu-related illness, as well as hospitalizations and deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the flu vaccine reduces children’s risk of flu-related ICU admission by 74%, reduces adults’ risk of being admitted to an ICU by 82%, and can be life-saving for many.

But what if you’ve already had COVID-19? Do you still need to get a flu shot? If so, is it safe to get one while sick with or shortly after recovering from COVID-19?

The CDC says: Get the shot
According to the CDC, there are several similarities between the flu and COVID-19. The two share common symptoms and both affect the respiratory system, are contagious and can cause mild to severe illness. However, only one of these two illnesses currently has an approved vaccination to protect you from getting it: the flu.

The annual influenza vaccine, also known as the flu shot, offers optimal protection against the flu viruses thought to be the most common during each year’s flu season. And while the flu vaccine does not offer protection against the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, it has also been proven that it does not increase your risk of getting sick with COVID-19, nor does the flu shot give you the flu.

What’s more, because flu and COVID-19 are caused by different viruses, having recovered from COVID-19 does not make you immune to the flu. This is just one more good reason out of many to get your flu shot, whether or not you have had COVID-19.

When to get your vaccination if you’ve had COVID-19
The CDC offers guidelines about when you should get your vaccination, especially if you are currently sick with COVID-19.

If you currently have COVID-19, the CDC recommends that your flu vaccination should be postponed for no less than 10 days from your positive test result; at least 10 days after your symptoms first began; and only if you have no fever without the use of fever-reducing medicines for 24 hours. Even if you have no or very mild symptoms, you should postpone getting your vaccination to avoid exposing others — including your health care provider and other patients — to the virus that causes COVID-19.

If you had a known exposure to a person with COVID-19, you should also wait to receive your vaccination until your 14-day quarantine period has ended.

And, as with all activities during the pandemic, make sure you protect yourself and others from COVID-19, flu and other viruses when you go to get your vaccine. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol; avoid close contact with people from outside your household and those who are sick; clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces; and cover your nose and mouth with a face covering when around others in public settings.

Learn more about how to access flu shots in San Diego.

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