If you have ever considered getting a flu shot, but wasn’t sure, this is the year to get one, medical professionals say.

Dr. Lonnie Albin, chief medical officer at Highlands Medical Center, says it is possible to have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Albin said it’s more important this year than in years past to get a flu shot.

“Last year, COVID his right around the time flu season ended,” said Albin. “It is unknown if having the flu combined with COVID-19 will pose additional problems. As COVID continues to be prevalent in our community, we recommend a flu shot to lessen the chance of having both at the same time.”

Dr. Erin DeLaney, an assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine in the School of Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, agreed it’s more important than ever for people to get vaccinated against the flu this year.

“COVID-19 has put significant stress on the nation’s health care system, and a bad flu season will severely stretch our health care resources,” said DeLaney.

DeLaney said the flu vaccine will not provide any protection against the infection from COVID-19, but it can prevent or minimize the effects of the flu. She agreed with Albin, saying there is evidence that a person can be infected by more than one virus at the same time.

“We don’t yet know the precise risk of a dual infection with coronavirus and influenza, but it is certainly a possibility,” said DeLaney. “We can safely say that co-infection with both viruses could be serious, even life-threatening.”

Doctors say the time to get a flu shot is in September or early October. Peak flu season is from December to February, and it takes a minimum of two weeks for antibodies against the flu to develop fully following vaccination.

“The CDC advises getting a flu shot no later than the end of October,” said DeLaney. “Of course, even getting a vaccination later in the year is better than no vaccination at all.”

Persons over 65, who are at increased risk for influenza, should consider getting a higher-doses vaccination from their medical provider. DeLaney says it is a good idea to check with your medical provider or local pharmacy for availability of the higher-dose vaccine.

“The flu vaccine does not give you the flu,” said DeLaney. “It is safe. It can prevent the flu entirely or limit the severity and duration of a case. I can’t stress enough how important it is that everyone get a flu vaccine this year. A bad flu season, on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, could be devastating.”

Dr. Andrew Hodges, of Scottsboro, said getting the flu shot is extremely important this year.

“The flu vaccine is a small and safe step to take which will pay dividends in preventing an otherwise potentially serious illness,” said Hodges.

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