Focus on Flu Prevention
About the 2020-21 flu season
Getting a flu shot is more important than ever — not only to keep you and your loved ones healthy, but also to reduce the spread of illness and conserve healthcare resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.
How to get your flu shot
Visit an urgent care clinic
Flu shots are available at UW Medicine Urgent Care seven days a week. Simply get in line online for a same-day visit. New patients are welcome.
Visit a pharmacy
Go to any local pharmacy near you that offers the flu shot.
Information about the flu vaccine
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone 6 months of age and older for annual vaccination, with rare exceptions.
Vaccination is particularly important for people who are at high risk of developing serious flu complications.
Children 6 months through 8 years of age may need two doses during a single flu season. Everyone else needs only one dose each flu season.
It’s a good idea to get vaccinated by the end of October. In the U.S., the flu season peaks between late November and March, and it takes your body up to two weeks to form the antibodies that protect you.
The CDC also recommends that children 6 months through 8 years of age who need two doses of the flu vaccine should receive their first dose as soon as the vaccine becomes available. This will allow the second dose (which must be administered at least four weeks later) to be received by the end of October.
While vaccine effectiveness can vary from year to year, recent studies from the CDC report that the flu vaccine reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well-matched to the flu vaccine.
Because we do not know if this year’s flu vaccine will be effective until toward the end of the flu season, the best thing you can do to protect yourself and the community is to get a flu shot.
Yes. Your safety is our top priority at every UW Medicine hospital and clinic. We have made getting your flu shot safer with mask requirements, physical distancing, mandatory staff screening and more.
There are several different kinds of flu vaccines. Talk with your healthcare provider about which vaccination is the best option for you.
The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or FluMist) is an option for people who are healthy and between the ages of ages 2 to 49. Pregnant women and children under the age of 2 should not get the nasal vaccine. The CDC also lists precautions for people with certain underlying medical conditions.
Yes. The flu is dangerous for many people, especially those older than age 65, young children and people with existing medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. Pregnant women are also at high risk for flu complications. However, it is important to note that the flu can make anyone sick enough to end up in the hospital, and every flu season leads to flu-related deaths across all age groups.
Even with preventative measures like wearing a facial covering and physical distancing, the spread of the flu is still possible in our community. Getting vaccinated will limit the spread of the flu, which will reduce hospitalizations and deaths and conserve scarce medical resources for the care of people with COVID-19.
The single best way to prevent getting the flu is to get vaccinated each year. Good health habits like avoiding people who are sick, covering your cough and washing your hands can also help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like flu.
We have not heard of any vaccine shortages.
Flu and COVID-19 symptoms
It is important to get a flu shot during the pandemic because flu vaccines will reduce the burden of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths on the healthcare system and conserve medical resources for the care of people with COVID-19. Additionally, getting immunized for flu might prevent you from trying to fight both respiratory viruses at the same time, and if you do become ill, your doctor can better help you.
Because the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 can be so similar, people who have the flu will likely need to be tested for both infections. While we don’t always need to test for flu in healthy adults who are managing their symptoms at home, it is still very important to test everyone with symptoms for COVID-19.
Based on everything we’ve learned so far, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between influenza and COVID-19 based only on symptoms.
Symptoms for COVID-19 and flu can range from mild to severe. Symptoms shared by COVID-19 and the flu are:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle pain or body aches
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults
Unlike the flu, symptoms of COVID-19 may include loss of taste or smell.
Getting tested for the flu and COVID-19 is the best way to confirm a diagnosis.
Yes, it is possible to get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. We do not how often this occurs or how the two viruses interact, but it is likely that being infected with both viruses at the same time would be more dangerous than just one.
If you have symptoms that resemble those of the flu or COVID-19, check with a healthcare provider. At UW Medicine, you can: