A yearly flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older – even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Getting a flu vaccine every year is the best way to help prevent flu and its serious complications like hospitalizations. For children, getting an annual flu vaccine can even be lifesaving.
Even though getting a flu vaccine will not protect you against COVID-19, the vaccine can still reduce your risk of becoming seriously ill from flu and even dying from it. In addition, getting your flu vaccine will also help keep you out of the hospital, leaving the beds for COVID-19 patients and others who need them. (And, yes, you can get sick with COVID-19 and flu at the same time).
Flu Activity in the U.S. (As of the week ending on May 15. 2021)
2020-21 Flu Season
According to the CDC, seasonal flu activity in the United States remains lower than usual for this time of year. The CDC also reports that one child has died due to flu and its complications this season. Visit CDC’s FluView to monitor flu activity (and related hospitalizations and deaths) in the U.S.
2019-20 flu season
The CDC reports that 198 children died due to flu and its complications. This is the highest number of pediatric flu deaths reported during a regular flu season. In addition, flu-related hospitalization rates were highest among children and young adults.
Benefits of Flu Vaccination
Getting the flu vaccine every year is very important, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Getting the flu vaccine can:
- Keep you from getting sick with flu.
- Help you and your family members reduce your risk of serious flu illness and flu-related complications, including hospitalization and death.*
- Help protect people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness and flu-related complications due to age and/or certain chronic health conditions.
- Protect women during and after pregnancy.
*A 2017 study published in Pediatrics showed that flu vaccination can significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from the flu. The study found that half of flu-related deaths in children from 2010 to 2016 occurred in otherwise healthy children – only 22% of these children were fully vaccinated. Nearly 2/3 of children died within seven days of developing symptoms. See these emergency warning signs of serious flu illness in children from our partners at Families Fighting Flu.
Pneumococcal pneumonia is an example of a serious flu-related complication that can cause hospitalization or death. Flu season is good time for people 65 and older, and people with certain chronic conditions, to check with their healthcare provider about pneumococcal vaccinations.
When to Get the Flu Vaccine
Get vaccinated as soon as possible. You want to make sure that you and your family members get vaccinated at least 2 weeks before flu begins spreading in your community. (It takes about 2 weeks for your flu vaccine to start providing protection.)
Some children 6 months through 8 years of age will require two doses of flu vaccine for protection from flu.
- The 2 doses should be received at least 4 weeks apart.
- If your child needs 2 doses, begin the process early as possible to make sure your child is protected before flu starts spreading in your community.
- Be sure to get your child a second dose if they need one. It usually takes about 2 weeks after the second vaccine dose for your child to be protected against flu.
Types of Flu Vaccines
Every year, new flu vaccines are created to help protect against the flu viruses that research shows will be most common during the upcoming season.
Vaccine options for the 2020-2021 flu season include:
- Standard dose flu shots.
- High-dose flu shots (only recommended for people 65 years and older).
- Flu shots made with virus grown in cell culture instead of eggs. No eggs are involved in the production of this vaccine.
- Live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) is made with weakened flu virus that is given by nasal spray (only recommended for healthy, non-pregnant people between 2 and 49 years old).
The CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) do not recommend one type of flu vaccine over another.
Read the AAP’s Q&A for Parents – Which Flu Vaccine Should My Children Get This Year?
Antiviral drugs are also available for treatment of the flu. If taken early (AS SOON AS YOUR SYMPTOMS BEGIN), antivirals can lessen symptoms, shorten duration of illness, and help prevent severe illness and flu complications.
But, not everyone needs to get antivirals. The people recommended to get antivirals are those who are at higher risk of complications and severe illness from flu including those 65 years and older, young children, pregnant women, and people with chronic health conditions. CDC recommends that healthcare providers treat patients with antivirals as soon as they suspect flu, and should not wait for confirmation from lab tests. Learn more.
Common Questions About the Flu Vaccine
Can the flu vaccine give me the flu?
Why do some people not feel well or feel like they have flu symptoms after getting the flu vaccine?
Learn more about flu, its symptoms, and the vaccine that helps prevent it.
Other Things You Can Do to Help Keep Yourself and Your Family Healthy
In addition to getting your flu vaccine every year, here are some other things you can do to help protect yourself and your loved ones from infectious diseases.
- If you are sick, stay away from other people as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze into your elbow.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces in your home.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a face mask.
- Follow public health advice
- Keep these items on hand when venturing out of your house: a face mask, tissues, and a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, if possible.