The Flu and COVID-19 | A Roundtable Discussion

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Article Updated August 25, 2021

The flu shot plays an essential role in protecting you, your family, and your community from illness. This year, that’s truer than ever.

Both the seasonal influenza virus that causes the flu and the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 spread from person-to-person. A flu shot cannot prevent COVID-19. But getting a flu shot is especially important during the current pandemic. And the flu vaccine is extremely safe for the vast majority of people.

For information on receiving your COVID-19 vaccine, visit our website. Here are answers to some questions frequently asked about flu shots:

Will a Flu Shot Help Protect Me From COVID-19?

A flu shot won’t protect you from COVID-19, but it will reduce your risk of having to fight two infections at once. And it lowers your chances of being hospitalized if you do get the flu. In 2019, nearly half a million people in the United States were hospitalized with the virus, according to the CDC.

The best way to prevent COVID-19 (or lessen the severity of the illness) is to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. These vaccines are safe, widely used, and highly effective. You can receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as your flu shot.

Who Should Get a Flu Shot?

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get the seasonal flu vaccine every year.

For pregnant women, the CDC recommends the flu shot (not the nasal spray vaccine) to protect against flu infections and complications. The flu shot also protects the baby for up to one year after birth. Babies whose mothers get a flu shot during pregnancy are 70% less likely to develop the flu than babies whose mothers skip the shot.

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Will a Flu Shot Give Me The Flu?

No, you cannot get the flu from your annual flu shot. Because it is made with an inactivated virus, the flu shot is unable to cause illness.

Can I Still Get My Flu Shot After Flu Season Starts?

It is never too late to get your flu shot. Though the CDC recommends you get your flu shot in September or October, you can benefit from the flu vaccine any time of year. The sooner you receive the vaccination, the better. It can take up to two weeks for your body to build immunity after your flu shot.

Does Getting a Flu Shot Guarantee I Won’t Get The Flu?

The flu vaccine reduces your chances of catching the flu, but how much it lowers your risk varies each year. That’s because the flu virus itself is constantly evolving, and scientists must keep pace by updating the vaccine.

Some years, the flu shot matches the strains circulating in the community very well, so the vaccine is especially effective. Other years, the virus changes quickly or other strains appear, so the vaccine is less effective.

According to the CDC, the flu vaccine is 40% to 60% effective most flu seasons. In other words, it cuts your risk of getting the flu roughly in half. Even in years when the flu shot doesn’t work as well, it still prevents thousands of hospitalizations and deaths.

If you get the flu shot but catch the flu anyway, you’re less likely to develop complications or need hospitalization.

Will My Flu Shot Give Me COVID-19?

Your annual flu shot will not give you COVID-19. The vaccine doesn’t contain COVID-19. The flu and COVID-19 are different diseases caused by separate strains.

Though you can have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, getting your flu shot will not give you COVID-19.

If you do catch the flu after your vaccination, your flu shot will help protect you from serious influenza symptoms. The best way to prevent COVID-19 is to receive your COVID-19 vaccination and practice prevention methods, such as handwashing and mask-wearing.

Why Should I Get My Flu Shot if I Am Wearing a Mask in Public?

You should still get your flu shot and continue to wear a mask in all public areas. Facemasks reduce the risk of being exposed to flu and COVID-19. If you are exposed to the flu, the flu shot helps prevent you from infecting those around you from being exposed, and lowers your chances of ending up in the hospital with influenza. The flu shot doesn’t protect you against COVID-19, so you should continue to wear a mask in all public areas.

UPMC recommends that everyone eligible receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Does the Flu Shot Contain Harmful Ingredients?

Vaccines use only the ingredients they need to be as safe and effective as possible. Each ingredient in a vaccine serves a specific purpose. The flu shot is extremely safe and lowers your risk of ending up in the hospital if you do catch the flu despite vaccination. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu vaccine every season with rare exception.

Where Can I Get a Flu Shot?

At UPMC, we offer convenient options for getting your yearly flu shot. Our hospitals and clinics are following the necessary precautions so you can safely get the care you need — especially the flu shot.

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.