Yes, You Need a Flu Shot This Year — And Here’s Why

**By Christopher Baliga, MD**

Flu season is fast approaching, which means it may be harder for you to tell the difference between a flu symptom and symptoms associated with COVID-19. Those affected with either illness have the potential to run a fever, feel sluggish, and develop a cough and body aches. The good news is, you can protect yourself and others from both diseases by wearing your mask and getting a flu vaccination.

With so many myths and rumors floating around about whether the flu shot is necessary this year, it’s important to listen only to medical experts on this matter. We’re here to provide the facts you need to help keep yourself and those around you healthy.

Since I wear a mask, do I still need a flu shot?

Yes. While masks are helpful in reducing the spread of pathogens, they are not as effective for preventing the flu. By combining mask wearing with  the flu shot, you will lower your risk of catching the flu while protecting yourself from COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses. Just as important, getting a flu shot means you are less likely to spread the disease to others.

Flu.signWon’t a flu shot increase my chances of catching the coronavirus?

There is no evidence to suggest that getting a flu shot will impact your risk of contracting COVID-19. But what we know for certain is that a flu shot will reduce your risk of getting the flu.

Does wearing a mask protect my immune system?

Wearing a mask has no effect on your immune system itself. It does reduce your risk of catching COVID-19 by up to 80%, but wearing a mask does not change your immune system on its own.

Some of us might remember the days when people were opposed to government mandates requiring the use of seatbelts in cars. Similarly, we’ve seen pushback against wearing masks in public. Just like wearing your seatbelt can save your life, masks help reduce your chances of catching COVID-19, while the flu shot reduces your risk of contracting the flu (or reduces the severity of illness if you do get sick). But unlike a seatbelt which only really protects you, masking and getting a flu shot also helps protect those around you.

If you’re in search of where to get a flu shot this year, consider visiting a Virginia Mason drive-thru/drive-up location, open through Oct. 23. Find more information on the location closest to you here.


Baliga, ChrisChristopher Baliga, MD, is board-certified by the American Academy of Internal Medicine in infectious diseases and internal medicine. He practices at Virginia Mason Seattle Medical Center. Dr. Baliga specializes in infectious diseases, HIV/AIDS care and travel health. 

Seven Steps to Stop the Flu

At Virginia Mason, we’re big on flu prevention. In 2005, we were the first medical center to require staff members to get a yearly flu shot as a condition of employment, and now nearly all staff members are immunized each year. (For extra credit, read our health care industry blog post “Mandatory Flu Shots: A Defining Moment” to learn more about Virginia Mason’s decision to make flu shots mandatory for staff.)

My desk yeti proudly wears his “No Flu” sticker. And yes, I clean my phone regularly.

Next week, we kick off our flu prevention campaign, and here are the steps you can take to join us in stopping the flu:

  1. Get vaccinated. Virginia Mason is offering influenza immunizations at many convenient locations throughout the Puget Sound beginning Monday, Sept. 17.
  2. Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Wash your hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
  3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  4. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in a covered trash can after you use it and then clean your hands.
  5. Avoid close contact with people who are, or may be, sick.
  6.  Keep frequently touched common surfaces clean, such as telephones, computer keyboards and doorknobs.
  7.  Be healthy to stay healthy by getting enough rest, eating well and exercising. Control your stress levels. Prolonged stress can affect your immune system. To help manage your stress, find a balance between work, exercise and personal time.

If you do get sick despite your best prevention efforts, stay home. Flu symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, tiredness, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. With that list of icky ills, why would you want to leave home, so give yourself a break and rest.