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Flu shot may provide even bigger benefits in 2020

Tuesday, September 8th 2020, 6:05 am - As flu season arrives, this will be the first time for many that it coincides with a global pandemic.

This season, it seems like getting the flu shot is a no-brainer.

“I think it's doubly important this year to get it. I am going to get it myself and I think you should too,” says Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious diseases physician at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont.

As the seasons change, the northern hemisphere enters flu season, and for many, this will be the first time experiencing the season during a global pandemic.

“Canadians need to get the flu shot and I think one of the biggest reasons is because this is going to be a very different type of flu season. We know that COVID is also involved so we want to keep people as healthy as possible,” says Chakrabarti. “The flu shot is going to help reduce your risk of severe disease and can also prevent hospitalization. That is also going to help the reduction of COVID because we are keeping people out of the hospital where transmission could occur.”

Vaccine videoblocks

Even with increased health risks this season, many will still fight the advice to get the flu shot. However, the success numbers from past flu seasons may help turn some heads this year.

During the 2018-2019 flu season the vaccine coverage in Canada was rated at 70 per cent for seniors. We know right now this is a very vulnerable population.

During that same season in the U.S., the Centres for Disease Control stated that the vaccine prevented millions of cases, and thousands of hospitalizations, as well as more than 3,500 deaths.

2019 flu shot statistics videoblocks

“The flu shot is basically a vaccine that has part of the flu in it, not the actual flu virus itself, which your immune system then recognizes and forms a response to, without you getting sick from the flu,” explains Chakrabarti. “So what this does, if you are actually exposed to the flu, you either don't get very sick from it or you do not get sick at all. And it's very, very important because if you don't get sick from the flu, not only does this help you, it also helps others around you because you are not spreading it to them.”

Think of getting the flu shot as a community initiative. The more we vaccinate, the less we are exposed to the virus.

The flu vaccine will not protect you against COVID19, but it indirectly can help manage the pandemic because it keeps people out of hospitals and it lessens the number of ventilators needed.

The CDC has worked with vaccine manufacturers to make sure more than enough vaccines are available this year. The recommended time to get vaccinated is September or October. However, if you miss this window you can still get the flu shot and reap the benefits.

“I think that we will still see a spike in COVID cases during this flu season however if we look to the southern hemisphere we can see that the flu season has been mild. And the social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing all play a part in this,” says Chakrabarti.

Many health care officials are warning Canadians to get the flu shot now. Do not wait until the flu starts spreading. The CDC has stated that once you receive the shot it takes your body about two weeks to develop the antibodies.

Canadians can make an appointment with their doctor to get the flu shot or find a pharmacy in their community that is administering the vaccine.

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