ARLINGTON, Va., CHICAGO and DALLAS, Sept. 27, 2021 — With more people gathering this fall and reports of overburdened hospitals from COVID-19’s delta variant, the American Diabetes Association®, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association are urging individuals over six months old to get their annual flu shot and for anyone who is eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccines can be given in the same visit.
COVID-19 precautions kept the last flu (influenza) season mild, but leading health experts warn that the 2021-2022 flu season may begin early and could be severe. While the COVID-19 pandemic continues, preventing influenza—which, with pneumonia, is regularly in the top 10 causes of death in the U.S.—is even more important to protect the health of people who are particularly vulnerable and to reduce the burden on U.S. hospitals, they say.
Flu and COVID-19 are both serious respiratory illnesses, and people living with chronic lung disease, cancer, heart disease and diabetes are at a higher risk for severe complications. Both the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccines are safe for people with chronic health conditions and are proven to provide the best protection against life-threatening complications from the two different viruses. As of Sept. 24, the CDC recommends COVID-19 booster shots for people in certain populations who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
“We encourage everyone over six months old to get a flu shot and everyone over 12 years old get a COVID-19 vaccine. This is especially important for health care workers and people who are at a higher risk for severe complications from the flu and COVID-19, like people over 65 and those living with chronic health conditions,” said Albert Rizzo, M.D., chief medical officer of the Lung Association. “Flu vaccinations have been in use for more than 50 years, with hundreds of millions of Americans safely receiving them, and more than 390 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been safely administered.”
“The best way to protect yourself and those close to you from a bad case of the flu and a severe bout of COVID-19 is to get vaccinated against each of them,” said Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., American Heart Association’s chief medical officer for prevention. “We know these vaccines work. We know these vaccines are safe. And we know you’re much more likely to regret it if you don’t get them than if you do. Please don’t leave your health or your family’s health up to chance when there are safe vaccines widely available in the U.S.”
“People with diabetes have been particularly hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic—with as many as 40% of all COVID-19 deaths occurring in people with diabetes,” said Robert Gabbay, M.D., chief scientific and medical officer for the American Diabetes Association. “The flu is also significantly worse for people with diabetes and therefore, we strongly recommend getting both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines to protect your health if you are eligible. We need to all work together to keep our loved ones healthy.”
The American Lung Association, the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association offer educational resources about the burden of flu and increased need for vaccination among people with chronic health conditions.
Free, downloadable information on flu, COVID-19 and chronic health conditions is also available through the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.