Have you had your flu shot yet?

Health experts say it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated for the flu shot this year.

The Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center, UMASH, boils it down to these six reasons:

1. COVID-19 has strained the healthcare system, making it more difficult to get necessary care when you’re sick. This is especially true in rural areas where, even before COVID, access to healthcare can be limited.

2. If you work with swine, the flu shot is especially important. Humans can give the flu to swine and vice versa.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

3. Even if you do get the flu, it will likely be much less severe with the flu shot. The flu shot doesn’t protect against COVID-19, but it does reduce your chance of getting the flu. There’s a common misconception that “the flu shot gives you the flu.” This is untrue.

4. Almost everyone should get a flu shot. About the only exceptions are children younger than 6 months of age; people with severe, life-threatening allergies to any ingredient in a flu vaccine (other than egg proteins); people who have had a severe allergic reaction to a dose of influenza vaccine.

5. Getting the flu shot protects your community, including those who can’t get the shot and are most vulnerable.

6. The flu vaccine protects you from four different versions of the influenza virus. This is why you should still get the shot even if you’ve had the flu.

Other information from UMASH:

The flu shot doesn’t “kick in” immediately. It takes about two weeks for the antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu. Because of this, it is recommended to get the flu shot as early as possible.

Those with a moderate-to-severe illness with or without a fever should not get the flu shot. Getting a flu shot when you’re not well could prolong your recovery.

If you are suspected or confirmed for COVID-19, your health care provider can consider delaying vaccination until you are no longer acutely ill.

There are some key differences between flu and COVID-19. COVID is caused by infection with a coronavirus first identified in 2019, and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses.

COVID seems to spread more easily than flu. However, as more people become fully vaccinated against COVID, the spread of the virus that causes COVID should slow down.

Compared to flu, COVID can cause more serious illnesses in some people. COVID can also take longer before people show symptoms and people can be contagious for longer.

Because some of the symptoms of flu, COVID and other respiratory illnesses are similar, the difference between them cannot be made based on symptoms alone. Testing is needed to tell what the illness is and to confirm a diagnosis. People can be infected with both flu and the virus that causes COVID at the same time and have symptoms of both influenza and COVID.

If you have other questions, UMASH noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regularly updates its Influenza-Related Questions page. The Minnesota Department of Health and here in Douglas County, Horizon Public Health, are also credible sources of information.