Relaxed COVID-19 Mitigation Measures May Equal More Flu

September 24, 2021

The flu kills thousands of people each year and sends hundreds of thousands more to the hospital. And, although respiratory viruses that cause flu did not spread as much as usual during last year’s flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says most people 6 months or older should still get a flu shot this year because relaxed COVID-19 mitigation measures may result in an increase in flu activity during the upcoming 2021–2022 flu season.1

Getting the flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against influenza and its potentially serious complications.

Children 6 months to 8 years who are receiving their first flu vaccination, and those children who have previously received only one dose of flu vaccine, should get two doses of the vaccine this flu season.2 To prevent missed opportunities, you may want to discuss and offer a flu vaccine during office visit, if applicable. A flu vaccine is the leading prevention against seasonal influenza.3 Antiviral drugs may be used to lessen symptoms of the flu, however, educating patients that these drugs are not a substitute for getting a flu vaccine is vital.3

Getting a flu shot is part of the Illinois Medicaid Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS®) measure for children up to 2 years of age and a question asked on the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS®) survey. You may want to talk to your patients about the flu vaccine and encourage them to get one this year. There are several misconceptions regarding this vaccine, so it is important to educate patients about the risks and benefits of getting a yearly flu vaccine. 

The following discussion points may assist you in helping your patients feel more informed and aware of their health care:

  • Benefits of the flu vaccine
  • Side effects that could occur after receiving the flu vaccine
  • Flu symptoms
  • Effectiveness of the flu vaccination
  • Patients' concerns/issues regarding this vaccine

Your patients may also ask you the following questions. The CDC providers answers. 

  • Can I have flu and COVID-19 at the same time?
  • If I get sick with flu, am I at higher risk of contracting COVID-19?
  • Is there a test that can detect both flu and COVID-19?
  • Will a flu vaccine protect me against COVID-19?
  • Does a flu vaccination increase your risk of getting COVID-19?
  • Because symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, how will I know if I have flu or COVID-19?
  • I think I may have flu. Is it safe for me to visit my health care provider when COVID-19 is spreading in my community?

1CDC, Frequently Asked Influenza (Flu) Questions: 2021-2022 Season, Sept. 16, 2021.

2CDC, Flu & Young Children, Sept. 14, 2021.

3CDC, What You Should Know About Flu Antiviral Drugs, Aug. 31, 2021.

HEDIS is a registered trademark of NCQA. Use of this material is subject to NCQA’s copyright.

CAHPS is a registered trademark of Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

The above material is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician or other health care provider. Physicians and other health care providers are encouraged to use their own medical judgment based upon all available information and the condition of the patient in determining the appropriate course of treatment. The fact that a service or treatment is described in this material is not a guarantee that the service or treatment is a covered benefit and members should refer to their certificate of coverage for more details, including benefits, limitations and exclusions. Regardless of benefits, the final decision about any service or treatment is between the member and their health care provider.