Yes, you should get a flu shot this year

As we — and the pandemic — move into the fall, getting a flu shot can help decrease your risk of other viral infections.

close-up image of an arm and a flu shot vaccine [View Image] The flu vaccine is one of the most effective ways to decrease the risk of getting the flu. (Getty Images)

As flu season approaches, the threat of COVID-19 becomes more complex. Public health experts have been warning of a “twindemic” — a severe flu season combined with an increase in COVID-19 cases. While the effect that flu season will have on the pandemic is unknown, health officials are encouraging people to take several steps to stay healthy, including getting a flu shot.

The flu vaccine is one of the most effective ways to decrease the risk of getting the flu. As we move into the fall, getting a flu shot is an important step people can take to protect their health, said Margaret Roberson, M.D., director of VCU Student Health Services.

“People should continue the same things that they are doing to protect themselves from COVID-19 but also make sure they get a flu shot, because we know it is going to be difficult to differentiate influenza from COVID-19 infections,” Roberson told VCU News earlier this month. 

“Flu shots help protect you against the flu, and we offer free flu shots to all students,” she said.

Students can get those free vaccines by making an appointment with Student Health Services (on the Monroe Park Campus on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons and on the MCV Campus on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday all day). Roberson said Student Health Services also is working with VCU Athletics to provide vaccines to all teams. 

VCU also has been offering flu shot clinics for employees currently working on campus (the next clinics are scheduled for Oct. 22 on the Monroe Park Campus and Oct. 26 on the MCV Campus). Employees who are teleworking should remain off campus and obtain a flu immunization from an off-campus pharmacy or health provider.

Gonzalo Bearman, M.D., a hospital epidemiologist, spoke with VCU Health News earlier this month about the flu and the flu vaccine. Bearman said people need a flu vaccine each year to help fight off the new form of the flu. He recommended people get their shots by or during October “so that your body can build up protective antibodies in time for peak flu season, which usually begins in November.”

“The flu shot safely decreases your risk of the flu,” he said. “Even though it’s not a 100% decrease, it’s still beneficial. It is especially important for people who are older than 65 and people with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes or other chronic diseases.” 

Like Roberson, Bearman said flu and COVID-19 symptoms are similar, and that makes it even more important for people to monitor their health, follow social distancing guidelines and call their doctor if they experience symptoms. And, get their flu shots. 

“As we are dealing with a never-before-seen infection, COVID-19, decreasing your risk of other viral infections is important,” he said. 

Read Bearman’s full interview with VCU Health News. Learn about on-campus employee flu shot clinics and contact Student Health Services at 804-827-8047 (Monroe Park Campus) and 804-828-9220 (MCV Campus).

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