NEW YORK — Every year about this time, medical experts start telling the American public that they should get their flu shot. They are saying the same thing this time around, but the message is that it's even more important this year.
"Getting a flu vaccine during 2020-21 is more important than ever because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on its website.
"Flu vaccination is especially important for people who are at high risk from flu; many of whom are also at high risk for COVID-19 or serious outcomes," the CDC said.
The added benefit of getting a flu vaccine this season is "reducing the overall burden on the health care system and saving medical resources for care of COVID-19 patients."
The New York State Department of Health added another reason for getting vaccinated against influenza. Doctors don't know what the risk is of having both the flu and the new coronavirus at the same time. Plus, many of the symptoms for the flu are the same as for the new coronavirus.
State medical experts said, during the pandemic, getting a flu vaccine is especially important for essential workers, including health care workers, and other workers in essential businesses.
People at risk of severe illness from the new coronavirus are adults 65 years and older, residents in nursing homes or long-term care facilities and anyone with underlying medical conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, heart conditions and cancer.
Dr. Daren Wu, chief medical officer at the Open Door Family Medical Center in the lower Hudson Valley, said, while everyone's minds are on the new coronavirus, getting the flu will lower your immune system and make you more susceptible to all sorts of secondary infections including bacterial infections and other viruses such as COVID-19.
"The flu shot is not perfect," he said, "but we keep framing the message that it is overwhelmingly safe and can give you significant protection."
The state health department said flu symptoms may include:
Fever or feeling feverish/chills
Runny or stuffy nose
Muscle or body aches
Vomiting or diarrhea (more common in children)
The CDC said symptoms of the new coronavirus include:
Fever or chills
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Muscle or body aches
New loss of taste or smell
Congestion or runny nose
Nausea or vomiting
Search here for where you can get a flu shot.