Flu Season During a Pandemic: Why You Need a Flu Vaccine

Updated September 09, 2021
Flu season starts in earnest in October, and it’s particularly important to get a flu vaccine this year so you’re protected while COVID-19 continues to spread.

Flu season starts in earnest in October, and it’s important to get a flu vaccine so you’re protected while COVID-19 continues to spread. Your body typically takes up to two weeks to develop an immune response from a vaccine, so getting an immunization now is your safest bet to fight the flu.

“There is a real community need to be unified with flu vaccination because of COVID,” said Cameron Wolfe, MBBS, an infectious diseases specialist with Duke Health. “Hospitals and clinics get surges in patient volume every winter because of the flu, and the threat of strain on hospitals and clinics because of both the flu and COVID is quite real.”

You can get your flu vaccine at Duke facilities, your doctor’s office, flu-only clinics, pharmacies, and other stores. Here’s what you need to know.

Who Should Get a Flu Vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and up. Certain populations are more vulnerable -- for example, people over 65, young children, those with respiratory illnesses such as asthma, or illnesses that lower your immunity. People who have certain chronic diseases, such as severe asthma or an immune disorder, should talk with their doctors first. There are safe options for people with egg allergies.

Receiving a flu vaccination can't give you seasonal flu.

Getting a Vaccine During Routine Visits

If you have an annual wellness exam or other visit with a Duke provider already scheduled, you can receive a vaccine during that appointment. Ask about receiving the vaccine ahead of your visit by sending a message to your doctor through Duke MyChart or during check-in. If you’re accompanying your child to an appointment, you can also ask to get a vaccination at the same time your child receives one.

Schedule an Appointment for Your Flu Vaccine in Duke MyChart

If you need a flu vaccine but don’t have an upcoming appointment already set, you can schedule an appointment for your flu vaccine to help us manage the number of people in our clinics. “This minimizes the risk of exposure to the flu and helps remove confusion of whether an illness could be the flu or COVID,” said Dr. Timothy Andrew O'Donnell, MD. Some clinics may have extended or weekend hours for added convenience.

Individual appointments can be made through Duke MyChart or by calling your doctor’s office. If you need to schedule multiple appointments for yourself and family members, call 919-385-0430. These appointments are for the flu vaccine only, and no other health care needs will be covered.

Is it Safe to Receive Doses of the Flu and COVID-19 Vaccines?

Yes -- and you can even get them on the same day if you haven’t yet been vaccinated against COVID-19. Receiving both does not change the effectiveness of either vaccine or cause more side effects. Both vaccines can be given during the same appointment and current Duke Health patients can schedule a flu or COVID-19 vaccination through Duke MyChart. If you’re not a current patient, you can still use Duke Health’s scheduling system to set a time to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. A COVID-19 vaccine is free of charge to a patient and if you have medical insurance, a flu vaccine is also typically free.

Protecting Yourself and Loved Ones During Your Visit

Duke has precautions are in place to keep you and your family safe when you come in for your flu vaccine. Masks are required for anyone over two years old, and social distancing measures are in place. If you don’t have a mask, one will be provided. Please note visitor restrictions that may be in place.

Wearing a Mask and Getting a Flu Vaccine is Your Best Defense

O’Donnell said it’s key to follow precautions already in place, which continue to focus on wearing masks in public, physical distancing, and washing your hands. “These are all things that will help control the spread of COVID-19 as well as the flu,” he said. According to the CDC, the U.S. had an all-time low number of flu cases last year because of these steps and added precautions around travel and social gatherings.

“It’s critical that we get a flu vaccine to take care of ourselves and others,” Dr. O’Donnell said. “This helps reduce confusion if someone is sick with COVID-19 or the flu, and most important, it reduces your chances of getting the flu in the first place.”

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