As flu season collides with the COVID-19 pandemic this year, it’s critical to think about how to best protect yourself, your loved ones and the members of your community from getting sick and overburdening an increasingly strained healthcare system. Getting a flu shot each season is an easy and safe way to take preventative action.
In a recent Walgreens survey conducted online in August by The Harris Poll, 72% of Americans say they probably or definitely will get the flu shot this season, with 32% of all U.S. adults saying they are more likely to get a flu shot this year than in previous years.
While encouraging, the survey also revealed that 28% of Americans have not made plans to get their flu shot this year and many common misconceptions about the flu continue to prevail. Misinformation can discourage some from getting a flu shot and taking the best preventative step they can to ward off seasonal illness.
To help make sure Americans are getting the right information, Dr. Kevin Ban, chief medical officer at Walgreens, addresses some of the top questions people have about flu shots.
Question 1: I’m already social distancing, wearing a face mask and frequently washing my hands. Do I really still need a flu shot?
While these measures are all important steps to help limit the spread of COVID-19, the flu and other respiratory illnesses, getting a flu shot every year can help prevent community spread of the flu and a possible “twindemic” with both flu and COVID-19 circulating at the same time. Last season, the flu shot prevented 3.69 million doctor’s visits and 105,000 hospitalizations, and everyone needs to do their part to preserve healthcare resources as COVID-19 continues to spread.
Question 2: What if my insurance doesn’t cover my flu shot?
Flu shots are covered by most insurance plans with a $0 co-pay, although provider networks may vary. People enrolled in Medicare Part B and many with Medicaid in certain states may also receive the flu shot at no cost, according to the CDC. Members of the Walgreens Prescription Savings Club may also get a discount of 20% off cash retail price. You can speak with your local pharmacist to learn more about your payment options.
Question 3: Is it safe to get a flu shot during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Doctor’s offices and pharmacies are taking all the necessary precautions to safely immunize patients. For example, at our pharmacies, we conduct temperature checks and symptom screenings prior to administering a flu shot, require pharmacy team members to wear face masks and plastic face shields, promote social distancing and clean and disinfect the immunization area after the patient has left. Patients can also complete paperwork in advance and schedule appointments online to reduce time in the pharmacy.
Staying up to date on routine immunizations like influenza, shingles and pneumonia is more important during the COVID-19 pandemic to help protect communities from vaccine-preventable illnesses.
Question 4: How do I know what flu shot is right for me?
Your local pharmacist can work with you to determine which flu vaccine is right for you based on your age and health history. In addition to the standard-dose flu shot, there are also flu vaccines designed specifically for people 65 years and older. While high-dose or adjuvanted flu vaccines can help improve antibody response for older people, according to the CDC, seniors may receive any currently licensed flu vaccine that is available.
Question 5: Is it too late for me to get a flu shot this year?
It’s not too late to get your flu shot for protection during this year’s flu season. Primary care providers and pharmacies typically offer flu vaccines past the peak of the flu season well into the spring. If you haven’t already received your flu shot, now is the time, as it takes about two weeks to develop the antibodies to fight the flu after getting your flu shot.
For more information on what to expect when getting your flu shot this year or to make an appointment for a flu shot, visit Walgreens.com/flu.