With COVID-19 continuing to spread across Montana and the country, some are wondering if the flu will also be a problem.
Health officials have called the arrival of flu season a convergence of two health crises, made worse by the fact that COVID-19 still has no cure.
Dr. Brad Fuller of Fuller Family Medicine in Billings says that even though there is not yet a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, almost everyone should consider taking the flu shot.
“Anyone six months or older should get the flu vaccine regardless of the type,” says Fuller.
While some worry that a flu shot can actually cause them to get sick, Fuller says that's not true today.
“You can’t get sick from the flu shot. If you do, it’s because you caught another virus. It’s a common myth and I hear it all the time as a reason not to get it,” said Fuller.
According to Fuller, roughly 20 years ago the flu vaccine did consist of a weakened form of the live virus, where people may have run the risk of developing some flu-like symptoms. He said for many years, the vaccine has not consisted of the live virus, and you cannot get sick from it.
People who have not yet received or do not plan on getting a flu shot are also wondering about its effectiveness.
Fuller says that the vaccine changes from year to year due to researchers having to match the vaccine with the strain of flu at the time.
“It’s not a perfect science. That flu virus mutates frequently, so just when we think we’ve got the right vaccine, it mutates,” said Fuller.
Fuller said that even though the vaccine may not always be a perfect match, it will make the flu much less severe if contracted, as opposed to not getting the vaccine.
Fuller said that while the flu vaccine will protect against the flu, it will not prevent the contraction of COVID-19.
“There is no overlap in the structure of the virus, so one vaccine will not help the other,” said Fuller.
He said that at this time wearing a mask, along with other distancing guidelines, are our best defense against COVID-19.
“We are wearing our masks because of coronavirus but it is actually going to help us prevent transmitting influenza, the common cold, and maybe other illness,” said Fuller.
Fuller says since people are wearing masks, he anticipates that there will be fewer cases of flu and other illnesses this year.