It’s that time of the year again when all those eligible should be getting their flu shot to better protect themselves against influenza, which will also improve their protection against contracting the coronavirus, health experts say. Studies show that the flu vaccine helps to build up immune systems, which makes one less vulnerable to catching COVID-19.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Blacks are an especially vulnerable and under-vaccinated population. 

In general, Blacks experience disproportionately higher rates of chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, said Dr. Branden Turner, a family practice physician with Kaiser Permanente’s Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Medical Offices.

According to research, systemic inequities and implicit bias have contributed to this disparity among African Americans, which place Blacks at higher risks for more severe influenza complications, Turner explained.

Although the past two flu seasons have been exceptionally mild, Australia, where it’s now winter, is reporting an alarming spike in both COVID-19 and flu cases, which could put the U.S. on track for a similar trend in the months ahead.

Australia’s flu season is often a harbinger of what flu season may look like in the U.S. later in the year. This is why experts are warning the U.S. could be facing a “twindemic” of COVID-19 and flu this fall and winter. For these reasons and more, there’s no doubt that vaccinations are important to protect one’s health against both COVID-19 and the flu.

Turner said having the flu and COVID-19 at the same time would be devastating to your health, noting studies have shown that the flu vaccine is the most effective prevention against contracting the flu and its complications.

Getting the flu vaccine is especially important for the most sensitive populations, according to Turner. They include the elderly, pregnant women, children younger than five, and those with chronic health conditions.

When it comes to children who never received the flu vaccine before, those under age 8 will need to receive two flu shots, with a booster vaccine given 28 days after the first inoculation, Turner said. He strongly encouraged parents to vaccinate their children this year, as many have resumed in-person learning at their schools and will be more susceptible to being infected with the flu virus as they interact with other students and teachers. 

He further cautioned against misinformation related to the flu vaccine.

“Some people believe that a flu shot will give you the flu, but that’s absolutely not true,” Turner stressed. “Also, if side effects occur, they’re typically mild. However, if you’re  not vaccinated, you have a much higher risk of getting the flu, a serious illness that causes hospitalizations and thousands of deaths yearly.”

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