Health Benefits

Frequently Asked Questions About The 2020-2021 Flu Season

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While we are in a pandemic with COVID-19, it is important to remember influenza (flu) sends thousands of people to the hospital each year.

With flu season approaching, it is more crucial than ever to protect yourself and your family by getting immunized. This year, there is broader concern that outbreaks of COVID-19 and influenza will be simultaneously competing for scarce health care resources this fall. That is why health experts recommend everyone who is able to get a flu shot.

Will new flu viruses circulate this season?

Flu viruses are constantly changing so it’s not unusual for new flu viruses to appear each year. Information about how flu viruses change is available from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

What flu vaccine options are recommended for the 2020-2021 season?

The vaccine options this season include:

  • Standard dose flu shots.
  • High-dose shots for people 65 years and older.
  • Shots made with adjuvant, which is a standard-dose, three-component (trivalent) inactivated flu vaccine for people 65 years and older.
  • Shots made with virus grown in cell culture. No eggs are involved in the production of this vaccine.
  • Shots made using a vaccine production technology, a recombinant vaccine, that do not require having a candidate vaccine virus sample to produce.
  • Live attenuated influenza shot, a vaccine made with attenuated (weakened) live virus that is given by nasal spray.

Do we need to get a flu vaccine earlier this year?

Getting vaccinated in August is too early, especially for older people, because of the likelihood of reduced protection against flu infection later in the flu season. September and October are good times to get vaccinated according to the CDC. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue, even into January or later.

Will there be changes in how and where the flu vaccine is given this fall and winter?

It’s very likely. How and where people get a flu vaccine will likely need to change due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC is working with health care providers and state and local health departments to develop contingency plans on how to vaccinate people against flu without increasing their risk of exposure to respiratory germs, like the virus that causes COVID-19. Local pharmacies will be offering flu shots this fall. For more information on where you can get a flu vaccine near you, visit www.vaccines.gov.

Flu and COVID-19

Will there be flu along with COVID-19 in the fall and winter?

The CDC believes it’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading in the fall and winter. Most health experts agree that getting a flu vaccine will be more important than ever. The CDC recommends that all people ages six months and older get a yearly flu shot.

Can I have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time?

Yes. It is possible to have the flu (as well as other respiratory illnesses) and COVID-19 at the same time. Experts are still studying how common this could be.

Will a flu vaccine protect me against COVID-19?

The flu vaccine will not protect you against COVID-19; however, flu vaccination has other important benefits such as reducing the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death. And getting your flu vaccine this fall will help conserve scarce health care resources.

How are CalPERS health plans preparing for flu season?

There is a significant amount of preparation being done by our health plans and medical groups for the fall and winter months. There has already been a remarkable level of adaptability and innovation to make sure that the upcoming cold and flu season does not amplify the effects of the pandemic. This includes conducting flu clinics in a reimagined way—outside, if possible, and socially distanced. Health plans will be starting their vaccine efforts in September and conducting significant outreach to members over the next couple of months.

Source: CDC website; Clinical Questions about COVID-19