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Why it’s more important than ever to get a flu shot

We don’t currently have a vaccine for COVID-19 — but we do for flu.
We don’t currently have a vaccine for COVID-19 — but we do for flu. (Cleveland Clinic News Service)

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, flu season is just around the corner.

Each year the flu kills thousands of people, but the good news is there’s a vaccine to help prevent it.

Susan Rehm, M.D., an infectious disease expert at Cleveland Clinic, said in the midst of a pandemic, it’s more important than ever to get a flu shot.

“We anticipate that there will be some people coming up who have both COVID-19 and influenza at the same time — which would be very devastating, obviously, and increase the risk of death from one or both of them,” she said. “So anything we can do to prevent influenza and to prevent COVID, of course, we want to do.”

Experts are concerned that if the flu and COVID-19 surge at the same time, it could potentially overwhelm the nation’s health care system.

A simultaneous surge may also further strain the availability of personal protective equipment, or PPE, for health care workers.

Rehm said the best way to avoid this scenario is to do everything we can to prevent both diseases.

We don’t currently have a vaccine for COVID-19 — but we do for flu.

Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself from influenza, and people shouldn’t be afraid to venture out and get a flu shot.

“Some people are concerned about going to a pharmacy or a doctor’s office to get influenza vaccine, and I want to reassure them that all of the health care facilities are taking extra precautions to make the environment safe for people who come in,” Rehm said.

In addition to the flu vaccine, all the measures we’re doing to try and mitigate COVID-19 — like masking, social distancing and hand washing — will also help reduce the spread of the flu, since they’re both respiratory diseases.