The Importance of Getting the Flu Vaccine 2021
HealthyWomen CEO Beth Battaglino, RN, has written an article for Mediaplanet’s Fighting the Flu campaign, which is running on The Future of Personal Health, stressing the importance of getting the flu vaccine. The CDC estimates that between 24,000 and 62,000 Americans died of the influenza virus last year, but experts warn that the COVID-19 pandemic could make flu season even deadlier this winter and spring. That’s why we’re joining dozens of other healthcare experts, advocates, and influencers who contributed to this campaign to help better educate the public about the risks associated with the flu, as well as some important preventative measures we can all take to keep ourselves and our neighbors healthy and safe.
There are many reasons to get an influenza (flu) vaccine each year. Because of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, getting a flu vaccine during 2020-2021 will be more important than ever. Flu vaccines will not prevent COVID-19, but they will reduce the burden of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths on the health care system and conserve scarce medical resources for the care of people with COVID-19.
Below is a summary of the benefits of flu vaccination and selected scientific studies that support these benefits.
- Flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick with flu.
- Flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor’s visits each year. For example, during 2019-2021, flu vaccination prevented an estimated 7.5 million influenza illnesses, 3.7 million influenza-associated medical visits, 104,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations, and 6,300 influenza-associated deaths.
- During seasons when the flu vaccine viruses are similar to circulating flu viruses, the flu vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor with flu by 40 percent to 60 percent.
- Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization for children, working-age adults, and older adults.
- Flu vaccine prevents tens of thousands of hospitalizations each year. For example, during 2019-2020 flu vaccination prevented an estimated 105,000 flu-related hospitalizations.
- A 2014 study external icon showed that the flu vaccine reduced children’s risk of flu-related pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) admission by 74% during flu seasons from 2010-2012.
- In recent years, flu vaccines have reduced the risk of flu-associated hospitalizations among older adults external icon on average by about 40%.
The Importance of Getting the Flu Vaccine 2021
- A 2018 study showed that from 2012 to 2015, flu vaccination among adults reduced the risk of being admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) with flu by 82 percent.
- Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions.
- Flu vaccination has been associated with lower rates of some cardiac events external icon among people with heart disease, especially among those who had had a cardiac event in the past year.
- best Flu vaccination can reduce worsening and hospitalization for flu-related chronic lung disease, such as in persons with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPDexternal icon).
- Flu vaccination also has been shown in separate studies to be associated with reduced hospitalizations among people with Diabetesexternal icon and chronic lung disease external icon.
- Many people at higher risk from flu also seem to be at higher risk from COVID-19.
- Flu vaccination helps protect women during and after pregnancy.
- Vaccination reduces the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection in pregnant women by about one-half.
- A 2018 study external icon that included influenza seasons from 2010-2016 showed that getting a flu shot reduced a pregnant woman’s risk of being hospitalized with flu by an average of 40 percent.
- A number of studies have shown that in addition to helping to protect pregnant women, a flu vaccine given during pregnancy helps protect the baby from flu for several months after birth when he or she is not old enough to be vaccinated.
- The flu vaccine can be lifesaving in children.
- A 2017 study was the first of its kind to show that flu vaccination can significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from flu.
Flu vaccination has been shown in several studies to reduce the severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick.
- A 2017 study showed that flu vaccination reduced deaths, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, ICU length of stay, and overall duration of hospitalization among hospitalized flu patients.
- A 2018 study external icon showed that among adults hospitalized with flu, vaccinated patients were 59 percent less likely to be admitted to the ICU than those who had not been vaccinated. Among adults in the ICU with flu, vaccinated patients on average spent 4 fewer days in the hospital than those who were not vaccinated.
- *References for the studies listed above can be found at Publications on Influenza Vaccine Benefits. Also, see the A Strong Defense Against Flu: Get Vaccinatedpdf icon! fact sheet.
Does flu vaccination protect against COVID-19?
Getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, however, flu vaccination has many other important benefits. Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death.
Why is getting a flu shot more important this year?
Getting a flu shot this year is particularly important because, like SARS-CoV-2, influenza is a respiratory virus and we want to do everything we can to minimize having two respiratory outbreaks circulating simultaneously in our populations.
Should people with cancer get the flu vaccine to avoid COVID-19?
Getting a flu vaccine this year is more important than ever because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It is especially important for people with cancer, as they may be at a higher risk for more severe forms of the flu and COVID-19.
Should healthcare workers get the flu vaccine this year during COVID-19?
Influenza viruses and SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) will likely both circulate this fall and winter. It is more important than ever that all healthcare workers prepare their practice and get an influenza vaccine.