It’s getting cooler outside, meaning people across Connecticut and 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 okay to receive both vaccines at the same time. The CDC web site 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 have gotten your flu shot by the end of October. 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, cover flu shots at no cost. No-cost transportation may also be available for members in select Medicare plans. If you don’t have transportation through your health plan and need help finding a ride, you can visit 211.org or the Anthem Community Resource Link to find assistance.
As data from Anthem health plans shows, only half of adults and children received a flu shot last season. Anthem is 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. Certain health plans with members at highest risk of illness from the flu will offer gift cards and other incentives to encourage getting the shot.
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. Anthem 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.
Michael Jefferson, MD, is the Managing Medical Director of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Connecticut.