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Should Dad Get This Year's Flu Vaccine?



"The question of the day at our house is whether or not my dad should get a flu shot. With a COVID vaccine coming out sometime, some of us have the feeling that dad should get that vaccine rather than the flu vaccine. Two vaccines may just be too much. Dad is 89 and his health is important to us as it is to him. We want to do what is best for him, and now wonder what that is."



There is a simple answer as to whether or not your father should receive the flu vaccine this year and the answer is yes. COVID-19 is not the flu. Influenza will be here soon enough, and it is not something that someone your father’s age should risk getting.

The flu vaccination is just that--the flu vaccination. It is not a substitute for a COVID vaccination, nor will the COVID vaccination be a substitute for the flu vaccination. We are talking about two distinct diseases; both, if contracted, could be devastating for an elderly person. The interesting factor here is that both diseases are respiratory in nature and have some similarities.

I am going to compare these vaccinations to how children are vaccinated. Infants are given DTaP and Polio vaccinations at the same time. The Polio vaccination protects against the infant from getting polio.  The DTaP vaccination protects against diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus. In one checkup visit, an infant gets protected against four childhood diseases. Additionally, children are given these same vaccinations multiple times as some are not effective after just one dose. The same will be true for influenza and COVID vaccinations. They are both important, for two distinct diseases. 

Ask your father to remember back to the days when children contracted the crippling polio disease and how happy the population was to stand in line for vaccination when it became widely available. I still remember standing in line with my older siblings to receive the vaccine when it came to our small town. The polio vaccination did not prevent diphtheria or pertussis or any other childhood diseases. 

Provide your father with up-to-date and accurate information about the flu vaccination and the COVID vaccination, too, when one becomes available. I recommend the Center for Disease Control (CDC) web site for the most accurate information,

As you approach the fall and winter, please take prudent steps to keep your father safe.