Each year is a little different, but flu activity often begins to increase in October. It's also when experts suggest getting the annual flu shot – recommended for everyone 6 months and older (with rare exceptions).

The flu shot can reduce your risk of a weakened immune system and potentially being co-infected with multiple viruses at the same time. Having COVID-19 and influenza simultaneously could be associated with much more severe outcomes than having just one alone.

Dr. David Priest

As the chief safety, quality and epidemiology officer at Novant Health, Dr. David Priest explains why, outside of the obvious reason, the flu shot is so important.

And you’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. The agent used in the shot is not “live” and you will not be infected by receiving the vaccine.

How to schedule your flu shot

Current Novant Health patients: schedule your shot with your primary care provider here.

Don’t have a primary care provider? Visit one of our walk-in clinics.

‘Typhoid Tommy’ at the office

We have all said it before when we didn’t really mean it. “Bless you.” A colleague sneezes into their hand before they start hitting buttons on the copy machine. They assure you that their clammy complexion and raspy voice is no more than “seasonal allergies,” but you suspect otherwise.

Bottom line: Don’t be “that” guy. If you are sick, please stay home to recover before putting yourself and others at risk.

How much work can you afford to lose?

More than 30% of private sector employees in the U.S. receive no paid sick leave, and those without are often low-wage earners. When no work means no pay, losing several days of income could really set you back. Why not reduce the risk of getting behind on your car payment or rent?

“It doesn’t matter what industry you work in,” Priest said. “If you are interacting with the public, there is a risk that you are being exposed to the influenza virus. So, it’s always beneficial to get the flu shot. And, if you feel like you have the flu, you need to stay home to prevent putting others at risk.”

And the same safety measures prescribed to slow the spread of COVID-19 also applies to the flu. This fall season you should continue to wash your hands frequently and play it smart when it comes to social distancing.

Protecting the ‘herd’

Just as zebras are safer when they stick together, the community is safer when the majority of the population receives the vaccine. This concept is referred to as herd immunity.

When enough people are vaccinated, the chance of germs spreading within a given population is reduced. This is especially important when it comes to protecting people who can’t get vaccinated. Typically, this list includes children under 6 months old and those with compromised immune systems.

“Herd immunity is a really important aspect of influenza season,” Priest said. “Research shows that even if the flu shot is not overwhelmingly effective in a particular season, the more people who get it, the safer we are as a whole.”

Keeping your unborn baby safer

Studies also show that pregnant women can protect themselves and their unborn children by getting the vaccine. The flu shot reduces the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection in pregnant women by up to one-half. Mothers can pass the antibodies onto their developing baby during pregnancy, which then helps to protect the baby for several months after birth.

Not feeling well? Don't forget about our virtual care options.

Novant Health offers virtual care appointments for patients who would prefer to be treated from the comfort of their own home.