Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and on the verge of another flu season, it's more important than ever to be vaccinated for influenza as soon as possible.

If more people are vaccinated for the flu, fewer people will become sick with the flu and fewer patients will require hospitalization. When there are fewer flu cases, hospital resources are freed up for COVID-19 patients in the event of surges.

Without a vaccine for COVID-19, as long as people are interacting with each other, the virus will continue to spread, and people will continue to become sick with COVID-19. With fall and winter approaching, it's a real concern that the flu and COVID-19 could cause patient surges. People need to do their part and get vaccinated for the flu.

While it's difficult to predict exactly what will happen in the upcoming flu season, the Southern Hemisphere, where the flu season is coming to an end, offers some clues. Mask-wearing and social distancing due to COVID-19 has helped to keep the number of flu cases down, as these practices protect people from numerous respiratory viruses ― not just COVID-19.

The flu activity in the Southern Hemisphere shows how important it is to remain vigilant, and continue to wear masks and social distance. Also, don't forget to keep up with the habit of thorough and frequent hand-washing.

Unfortunately, some people may be reluctant to be vaccinated or to vaccinate their children due to misinformation about vaccine safety. Vaccines are held to the highest standards of safety and, aside from minor side effects for some patients, they are safe for most patients.

It's important to seek medical information only from credible sources who have scientific training. Vaccines are safe. It's the diseases they protect against that are the cause for concern.

Common myths about the flu vaccination that are scientifically proven false include:

• A flu vaccination can cause a patient to get the flu – False

While some people experience muscle aches and a fever for a day or two after receiving a flu vaccination, this is likely a side effect of the body's production of protective antibodies. It is not the flu.

• False: Many patients have serious adverse reactions to vaccines – False

Allergies and serious complications from vaccines are rare. Tell your provider if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to a flu vaccination or any other medicines. Also, tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives or animals.

• Vaccines cause autism – False

Despite much controversy on the topic, researchers haven't found a connection between autism and childhood vaccines.

Talk to your health care provider about any vaccination concerns you might have, as well as how and where to get your flu vaccination.

Jennifer Johnson, D.O., Family Medicine, Mayo Clinic Health System

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