As we face a new healthcare environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a high probability that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both spread this fall and winter. Healthcare systems could likely be overwhelmed treating patients with both of these viruses, meaning getting a flu vaccine during 2020-2021 is more critical than ever.
In our quest for a better way in healthcare, Abarca goes all in to spread the word on the importance of the flu vaccination to high risk patients, parents, and caregivers. While getting a flu vaccine will not protect you against COVID-19, there are many significant benefits, such as reducing the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, death, and saving healthcare resources for patients with COVID-19.
1. Flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick with the flu. During seasons when the flu vaccine viruses are similar to circulating flu viruses, the flu vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of going to the doctor with flu by 40 percent to 60 percent.
2. Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization for children, working-age adults, and older adults. Recent studies show that the flu vaccine prevents tens of thousands of hospitalizations each year. For example, during 2018-2019, flu vaccination prevented an estimated 58,000 flu-related hospitalizations. In recent years, flu vaccines have reduced the risk of flu-associated hospitalizations among older adults on average by about 40%. Another 2020 study found that during the 2018-2019 flu season, flu vaccination reduced flu-associated hospitalization by 41% and flu-associated emergency department visits by half among children (aged six months to 17 years old).
3. 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 among people with heart disease, especially among those who had a cardiac event in the past year. Also, Flu vaccination can reduce worsening and hospitalization for flu-related chronic lung disease, such as in persons with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Flu vaccination has also been shown in separate studies to be associated with reduced hospitalizations among people with diabetes and chronic lung disease.
4. 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 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. Other studies have also 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.
5. Flu vaccination 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.
6. Flu vaccination has been shown in several studies to reduce the severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick. A 2018 study 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 four fewer days in the hospital than those who were not vaccinated.
Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions. Despite the many benefits offered by flu vaccination, only about half of Americans get an annual flu vaccine, and flu continues to cause millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and tens of thousands of deaths. Many more people could be protected from the flu if more people got vaccinated.
As we approach influenza season (the peak of which occurs in December through February), the influenza vaccination will be essential to reduce the impact of respiratory illnesses in the population and can help decrease further burdens on the healthcare system.
Learn more about seasonal influenza, including how to prevent it, the benefits of getting vaccinated, and how the influenza vaccine works. We recommend that you talk to your healthcare professional about which vaccine is right for you and your loved ones.
*This blog post was written by Lillian Colón-López, MPH, Pharm. D., Clinical Client Adviser at Abarca Health.
Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccine-benefits.htm. Other references for the studies listed above can be found at Publications on Influenza Vaccine Benefits. Also, see the A Strong Defense Against Flu: Get Vaccinated fact sheet.