The flu shot – why now?

The authorities keep telling us that COVID-19 is nothing like the flu, so why this immediate push for everyone to go out and get the flu shot?

The flu shot is usually scheduled for release mid-April to May to cover the flu period through to early October-ish,1 to try to prevent up to 3000 Australian deaths, 18,000 hospitalisations and 300,000 GP consultations occurring each year.2

COVID-19 has, along with everything else in our lives, changed all that and doctors want us to get the jab pronto!

Does the flu shot combat COVID-19?

Nope. But it does stop most people getting influenza, and the benefit is twofold:

  1. The flu shot reduces the strain on health resources because fewer people will get the flu. We’ve all seen how different countries’ health systems have been while dealing with the coronavirus, imagine piling those annual statistics for influenza on top of that.
  2. If we do get the flu, our immune system’s response is so immense, it weakens throughout the process, opening the door to pneumonia, and yes, the coronavirus.3

Both influenza and COVID-19 attack the lungs so why doesn’t the flu shot work for both?

The simple answer is that they are two different viruses. The flu vaccine is altered every season to work on the specific virus. Trials are still being run to find COVID-19’s kryptonite.4

What are the different symptoms between COVID-19, the flu, a cold, and an allergy? 

Allergy Cold Flu COVID-19

Primary symptoms of allergies include:

  • sneezing
  • congestion
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • no fever

Primary symptoms of a cold include:

  • a blocked or runny nose
  • a sore throat
  • headaches
  • muscle aches
  • coughs
  • sneezing
  • a raised temperature
  • pressure in your ears and face
  • loss of taste and smell

Primary symptoms of the flu include:

  • fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • coughs
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • muscle or body aches
  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • some people may have vomiting and diarrhea

Primary symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • fever
  • runny nose
  • dry cough
  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue
  • body aches

“It’s important for us to distinguish the difference between COVID-19 and influenza,” said William Curry, M.D., associate dean UAB primary care and rural medicine. “This will become apparent with shortness of breath.” 6

Transmission:

You can’t catch an allergy from, or give it to someone else.5

Transmission:

Direct contact with infected secretions on surfaces or inhaling airborne droplets.5

The bug can stay alive on surfaces for up to 7 days.6

Wash your hands and don’t touch your face.

Transmission:

Droplets from coughing, sneezing, talking, or just breathing really…well, moistly.

The virus can stay alive on surfaces for several hours.6

Wash your hands and don’t touch your face to reduce your risk of infection.

Transmission:

As far as we know at this stage, coronavirus is from person to person through sneezing or coughing and the droplets containing the virus can remain on surfaces for some time.

Can remain active on surfaces up to several days.4

Wash your hands and don’t touch your face to reduce your risk of infection.

 

How do I get vaccinated?

Most people over the age of 6 months can get a shot from their GP or local pharmacy. In these times it is recommended to call first to check that they are in stock, and ensure you follow their safety protocols. There should not be a shortage, but there may be safety hoops to jump through.7

Who should be getting the shot?

  1. Everyone over 6 months of age and who does not have a life threatening allergy to any of the ingredients of the vaccine]
  2. Especially those with:
    • lowered immune systems
    • over 65 years old
    • respiratory conditions
    • pregnant women
    • healthcare workers7-11

So, there will be a lot of tissues filling our bins in 2020, and please take every precaution not to get sick this year. Viruses don’t care about loopholes in the rules, you can’t bargain with them, and not sanitising just this once may be the open door the virus is looking for.

Take action

  1. Get a flu shot NOW – it may even be free if you’re in a high-risk category7
  2. Practice social distancing
  3. Wash your hands
  4. Don’t touch your face
  5. Stay safe
Footnotes
  1. Immunisation Coalition
  2. Influenza Specialist Group
  3. Popular Science
  4. Hopkins Medicine
  5. Mayo Clinic
  6. The University of Alabama
  7. ABC News
  8. gov.au
  9. CDC Who Should Vax
  10. CDC Vaccine Ingredients
  11. Health NSW
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