Both the Washington State Department of Health and Seattle Children’s infectious disease expert, Dr. Matthew Kronman, are spreading the word near and far — this year, it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated against the flu. The flu vaccine can keep you and your family from getting and spreading the flu to others during the COVID-19 pandemic. We may not have a vaccine for COVID-19 yet, but we do have one for flu.
“The flu vaccine is urgent – every year. Getting the flu vaccine is the single best way to avoid flu illness, flu hospitalization, and even death due to flu for children,” Kronman said. “Yet this year we have an additional reason to strongly encourage parents to get the flu vaccine for their children: COVID-19. The course of the pandemic is unpredictable, and we want to remove any other strains on the healthcare system that we can. In this case, getting the flu vaccine does exactly that.”
Does the flu vaccine really work?
The flu vaccine really does work for families and communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), new data shows that overall flu vaccination coverage for 2019-2020 was 52%. The CDC estimates that this level of coverage prevented 7.5 million flu illnesses, 105,000 hospitalizations and 6,300 deaths.
While the flu vaccine keeps many people from getting the flu, some people may still get sick. Vaccinated people who still get sick usually have less severe illness and a reduced chance of needing urgent or emergency care than people who get sick and didn’t get the vaccine.
“The flu vaccine is safe and effective at reducing illness and death due to flu – which is something all parents should want to avoid for their children,” Kronman said. “Everyone 6 months and older should get the flu vaccine each year.”
When should my family get the flu vaccine?
Your family should get vaccinated before the end of October for the best protection through the winter months when the flu is most likely to spread. However, flu vaccines will still be available through the flu season while vaccine supply remains, and will still offer protection through the end of the flu season in the spring.
How can I safely get a flu vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Just as you’ve added some safety steps to your routine when running errands, you should take the same precautions while getting your flu vaccine to keep you and your family safe from COVID-19 and other illnesses. Be sure to wear a face covering, wash your hands often, and stay while you are out.
Clinics and pharmacies are also following special safety guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, there are options like drive-through vaccination clinics, or you may be asked to wait outside or in your car until your appointment time to limit the number of people in the building. Call your clinic or pharmacy and ask what kind of safety procedures they follow.
Where can I get a flu vaccine?
You can visit your local doctor’s office, pharmacy or clinic event in your area. Visit www.vaccinefinder.org to find a flu vaccine location near you. You may also check with your child’s school district if you have school-based health centers. Many of them are providing flu vaccine for students.
Does my insurance cover the flu vaccine?
Children aged 18 and under in Washington can get a flu vaccine and other recommended vaccines at no cost. The provider may charge an administration fee to give the vaccine. You can ask them to waive this fee if you cannot afford it.
Most insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare part B, cover the cost of flu vaccine for adults. If you do not have insurance, you may still be able to get the flu vaccine at no cost. Talk to your local health department for more information.
Seek answers to any questions you have
It’s OK to ask your and your child’s doctors for more information about vaccines, or you can use the resources below. It’s important to follow medical advice from trusted experts, and they’re ready to answer your questions.
“Do your part to protect yourself and your family this winter season,” Kronman said. “Get a flu vaccine for everyone in the family 6 months of age and older!”