As we navigate COVID-19, you need to get your flu vaccine this year – now more than ever before.

No, a flu shot won’t protect you from the coronavirus – the diseases are caused by two different viruses. But getting a flu vaccine provides important health protections for you, your family, your UCF colleagues and your community as we continue battling the pandemic.

The flu, like COVID-19, is an airborne virus that affects the respiratory system. And we expect both viruses to be active this fall and winter – all at the same time. That means you need to do everything you can to protect your own health and that of your family. The flu vaccine is part of that protection. It can prevent you from catching the flu or minimize the severity of flu symptoms if you do get the virus. Such protection reduces your risk of suffering serious flu-related complications like pneumonia and needing hospitalization. That’s especially critical during the COVID-19 pandemic so we reduce the overall burden of respiratory illnesses on our healthcare system. If you don’t get sick from the flu and don’t need healthcare for your symptoms, you save those resources for someone suffering from COVID-19.

We have talked often during this pandemic of people who are at high risk for COVID-19. These people are also at high risk for the flu. People with heart disease, diabetes, asthma and other chronic conditions have a greater chance of developing severe complications from the flu. In fact, the CDC reports that getting the flu vaccine has been associated with lower rates of some cardiac events for people with heart disease. Pregnant women who get the flu vaccine are helping to protect themselves from serious illness and flu-related hospitalization and are also protecting their baby from flu infections for several months after birth. For all of these reasons, the CDC recommends anyone over 6 months old get a flu vaccine with some rare exceptions. Even if you don’t have a chronic illness, getting the flu shot protects those living and working around you who may be vulnerable.

If you’re worried about going out to get your vaccine, know that the CDC has prepared guidelines that clinics, pharmacies and other providers are following to administer flu shots this year and still maintain physical distancing and other safety precautions. And it’s easier than ever to get your vaccine – you can get a flu shot when you buy groceries or go to the drugstore, for example. UCF is also offering multiple flu shot locations, including a mobile flu cart driving through campus and a drive thru flu shot event as part of the Oct. 7 Healthy Knights Expo.

So don’t put off getting your flu shot. We all need to get the vaccine before flu viruses begin spreading in our community. It takes about two weeks after getting the vaccine for your body to develop antibodies to provide protection. Don’t use the excuse that you got a vaccine last year. The flu mutates often so you need an updated shot each year to provide the most protection.

Give your body all the help it needs. Get your flu shot. By working together and being smart, we protect each other.

COVID-19 health tips are brought to you by UCF’s Academic Health Sciences Center (AHSC), which includes the Colleges of Health Professions and Sciences (CHPS), Medicine, Nursing and Student Health Services. All COVID-19 tips appear here.