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Public health officials are urging people to get the flu vaccine, which is being shipped to many areas to be ready for September vaccinations.

According to the Center for Disease Control flu cases are expected to start increasing early in October and could last late into May. This makes September and early October the ideal time to get your flu shot.

But there’s reason to be concerned that flu vaccination rates could be lower this year than in past years, even though the risk of getting seriously ill may be higher because of the widespread circulation of the coronavirus.

In an effort to avoid getting sick, millions of Americans avoided seeing their health care provider the past few months. Social distancing and stay-at-home orders have resulted in a decreased use of routine medical preventive services such as vaccinations. Many employers that often provide the flu shot at no cost to employees are allowing employees to work from home, potentially limiting the number of people who will get the flu shot at their jobs.

According to health officials, The flu vaccine takes up to two weeks to reach peak effectiveness, so getting the vaccine in September will help provide the best protection as the flu increases in October and later in the season.

CDC Director Robert Redfield discusses the importance of flu vaccination this year.

Both COVID-19 and the flu are contagious respiratory illnesses that presents with similar symptoms. Both viruses can impact the elderly and those with certain chronic conditions, such as heart and lung disease, the hardest.

Data on flu vaccination rates from 2018-2019 show that only 49% of Americans six months of age and older received the flu vaccine. The vaccine’s effectiveness varies each season, with early data from the 2019-2020 flu season indicating a vaccine effectiveness rate of 50% overall, and 55% in youth.

While some may think this effectiveness rate is low, the flu vaccine remains the single best way to prevent the flu and related complications.

Health officials say COVID-19 will still be circulating during flu season, which makes getting a flu vaccine more important than ever.

Because flu vaccination protects against one of these respiratory illnesses, the CDC recommends everyone (with few exceptions) six months of age and older get an annual flu vaccine. While the flu vaccine will not protect you against COVID-19, the flu vaccine will reduce your risk of developing the flu as well as reduce your risks of flu-related complications including hospitalization and even death.