Vaccines, Flu Shots and COVID-19
Normally this time of year puts us on the doorstep of back-to-school season — which means making sure that kids’ vaccinations are up-to-date, and starting to plan for getting everyone their annual flu shot. But since this is 2020, and COVID-19 has thrown everything into chaos, back-to-school is up in the air.
But new research is showing that, with COVID-19 not going away anytime soon and herd immunity uncertain, vaccines and flu shots may be more important than ever.
Let’s start with COVID-19. Almost all of the buzz lately has centered around a possible vaccine. While that’s hopeful news, it’s not something to expect anytime soon. The largest and most advanced of the 150 possible candidates being tested worldwide entered its final phase on July 27. In the best-case scenario, results won’t be known until at least November. And if the vaccine then wins government approval — which requires a minimum 50% effectiveness rate — mass distribution won’t begin until 2021.
But here’s some possibly good news:
Existing Vaccines May Help
Scientists and health care professionals have long known that the benefits of vaccinations often go beyond the targeted germ. That’s because many vaccines stimulate that half of the immune system (the “innate immune system”) that attacks foreign invaders such as viruses, thus helping to protect recipients against other germs. That may be the case with childhood vaccines and COVID-19. Currently, clinical trials are underway to see if vaccines for tuberculosis and polio may provide at least temporary protection against COVID-19. Even if it doesn’t help with the novel coronavirus, preventing diseases like measles, mumps and chickenpox is always a good idea, especially with the ongoing risk of contracting COVID-19 at the same time. According to the CDC, routine vaccinations should only be deferred for people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, and then only until they’ve met the criteria for ending isolation.
The Flu Shot is Vital
In one very important sense, the flu vaccine is an essential line of defense against COVID-19. No, it won’t offer protection from the virus itself, but it can help ensure that your respiratory system is at its strongest should you become infected with COVID-19. The last thing you want is to catch COVID-19 when your lungs been wracked by the flu because the odds of serious complications are far higher. That’s why the CDC is stressing that everyone should have a flu shot this year to prevent undue stress on the healthcare system, and especially recommends vaccinations for:
- Essential workers (healthcare and critical infrastructure workers);
- Those at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including adults 65 and over, nursing home or long-term care facility residents, and anyone with an underlying medical condition; and
- Those at high risk for flu complications, including infants and young children, pregnant women, people 65 and over, and anyone with an underlying medical condition.
So this year more than ever, be sure to make sure your kids’ vaccinations are up-to-date and that everyone in the family gets the annual flu shot. Check with your primary care doctor and make an appointment. If you don’t currently have a family doctor, St. Clair Hospital is here to help. Click here to visit our physician directory and find a primary care doctor close to you.
A Reminder About the Flu and COVID-19
One big challenge we’re about to face is a flu season in the middle of a pandemic. COVID-19 and the flu share many symptoms — fever, a bad cough and body aches among them. If you do experience these symptoms, it will be vital to get tested in order for your doctor to determine the right course of action. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration approved emergency use of a third diagnostic test that detects and differentiates both the flu and COVID-19 with a single sample. If you develop flu or COVID-19 symptoms, contact St. Clair Hospital at 412.942.4000 for information on where and when testing is available.
Center for Innate Immunity and Immune Disease: https://ciiid.washington.edu/content/what-innate-immunity