Flu season could be 'unpredictable' due to Covid — here's how to stay safe and when to get the flu vaccine

Only half of Americans have been fully vaccinated against Covid. A second important shot is on the horizon: the flu vaccine. Experts predict that this year's flu season is going to be especially severe. Flu seasons are usually easier when a portion of the population has natural immunity. This is because they have been infected in the past year. However, because Americans spent more time last fall and winter socially distancing and washing their hands constantly, the flu was less common than usual. This means that more people are now at risk than usual, particularly as Americans have been less vigilant against Covid in recent months. The best way to avoid getting the flu is to get the vaccine. Only 48% of Americans received the flu vaccine in the late 2019 and early 2020 flu seasons. Here are some reasons why the flu vaccine is more useful this year and when it should be taken:
This year, the flu vaccine is more important than ever

The flu this season will be "a bit unpredictable", Dr. Clare Rock at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine tells CNBC Make It. One reason is that scientists usually base the composition of flu strains on which they were circulated in the previous year to create the annual influenza vaccine. Rock states that the last year's flu outbreak made it more difficult to create this year's vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccines that are "well-matched to the flu virus can lower the risk of illness by 40% to 60%. It may be difficult to predict this year's numbers. This is no reason to skip your flu shot for this year. Rock states that no vaccine is 100% effective. However, if you are vaccinated you are much less likely to become seriously ill. But there is one more problem. The flu and Covid could be circulating simultaneously, which is another challenge. Rock states that there could be trouble around every corner during a Covid pandemic. "So, I believe the premise we are taking is to prepare for the worst and then hope for the best. The University of Pittsburgh has published a study that used mathematical modeling to predict what the worst-case scenario might look like. It is yet to be peer reviewed. Researchers determined that the flu season could lead to 600,000 hospitalizations if there are not enough vaccines and this year's strain of flu is particularly contagious. This is three times the number of flu-related hospitalizations that the U.S. usually sees per year.

How to keep safe from the flu and Covid

First, get your flu shot. This is the best way to lower your risk of getting the virus. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House chief medical adviser, on September 9, NBC News reported that "We don’t want a bad flu season complicating our already-proven Covid-19." Many hospitals across the country are currently overwhelmed with Covid cases at this stage in the pandemic. A flu shot can help you avoid being hospitalized for non-Covid reasons. You can get your flu shot free of charge if you have insurance. You can expect to pay $40 for the shot if you don't have health insurance. If you need an egg-free vaccine because of an allergy, it could cost you $74 to get the shot. The second thing you should do after your flu shot is over is to wear a mask and wash your hands after every cough and sneeze. To prevent spreading the flu, it's best to stay at home and not come into contact with others if you are sick. The flu spreads like Covid through respiratory droplets. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they transmit the virus to others. The virus can also spread to surfaces in rare cases. People are less likely to wear masks or to socially disengage from the flu than last year. This could make it more severe and earlier. According to the CDC, both flu and Covid are likely to be in circulation this fall and winter. It is possible to become infected with both. Both have the same symptoms, such as fever, chills and cough. It's important to get tested if you feel unwell. Although it can be exhausting to keep your eyes open, these simple steps could help you avoid getting sick this year.

When is the best time to get your flu shot?

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