Expert explains why it's important for older adults to get flu shot this year amid pandemic

Don't let last winter's record low flu season fool you. The flu is not gone, experts say.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- October is the time for pumpkins, football - and flu shots. If you haven't gotten one yet, don't wait any longer. And older adults aren't the only ones who benefit from the vaccine.

The signs announcing flu shots are out at pharmacies, supermarkets, and big box stores and the public clinics are opening.

Don't let last winter's record low flu season fool you.

"The flu is not gone," said Dr. Laura Picciano from Main Line Health. "You might be vaccinated against COVID-19. However, that does not count for the flu. They're two separate entities."

Dr. Picciano says it wouldn't take much to stoke a major flu outbreak - especially as cold weather drives us indoors.

"With less masking, more gatherings, we might notice that the incidence is going to rise," she said.

Dr. Picciano says several traditional wintertime viruses did return in spring when COVID-19 rules were relaxed.

Older adults should ask about getting a high-dose flu shot, which creates a stronger immune response. One study shows it cut flu cases by 24% compared to a standard dose flu vaccine.

But Dr. Picciano says any flu shot is better than none.

"You could actually wind up hospitalized and even pass away from this illness. It can be very severe," she said.

She says it's a myth that people get the flu from a vaccination, though they may get flu-like symptoms as their body builds immunity.

Getting protected against the flu can also help everyone in the fight against COVID.

"A community can have two serious respiratory illnesses circulating at once, which would completely strain our healthcare system," Dr. Picciano

Federal health experts say you can even get vaccinated against both at the same time.

"If that means going in and getting the flu shot in one arm, and the COVID shot in the other, that's perfectly fine," said Dr. Anthony Fauci.
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