(StatePoint) In the 2019-2020 flu season, influenza caused up to 22,000 deaths in the U.S. This year, with so many medical resources being used to care for COVID-19 patients, it’s especially important to protect yourself from the flu.

The annual flu vaccine can help protect you from the flu and lessen severe flu symptoms. It’s not too late to get a flu shot, and there are a number of reasons you should get yours now, if you haven’t already.

1. You’ll save life-saving resources for COVID-19 patients

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Last flu season, influenza sent more than 400,000 people to the hospital with flu complications. By protecting yourself from the flu, you can help save those life-saving hospital beds and ventilators for individuals who may contract COVID-19. While we anxiously await the arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine, there is one vaccine already available that will protect your lung health this winter: the flu shot.

2. Chronic health conditions make flu symptoms worse – and deadly

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The flu can worsen symptoms of chronic health conditions, such as lung or heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Multiple studies have shown an increased risk of heart attack and stroke in the first few days following the flu, and it can lead to complications among people with diabetes. The flu can also exacerbate symptoms of respiratory disorders, such as asthma and COPD and can lead to pneumonia. Personal stories about individuals who were impacted by the flu can be found by visiting the American Lung Association’s GetMyShot.org.

3. Adults over 50 are at higher risk

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As we age, our immune systems decline and weaken, placing older adults at greater risk for catching the flu and having severe complications. Over 65% of those hospitalized last flu season were adults over 50. Vaccinating against influenza helps reduce the risk of hospitalizations and dying from the flu for older adults. Yet, despite these benefits, in 2019-2020 only 50% of adults ages 50-64 got their flu shot.

4. Flu shots protect those around you

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Similar to COVID-19, the flu is spread from person to person. By getting a flu shot, you are helping reduce the spread of the flu and protecting your family and friends! For additional information about the flu, visit www.lung.org/flu. For flu shot resources, including finding a location near you to get a flu shot, visit www.getmyshot.org.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting a flu shot every year. Annual vaccination is important as the body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time. Now more than ever, the flu shot is critical and necessary to help protect ourselves, those we love and our communities at large, especially people at highest risk of flu complications.

Photo 1 Credit: (c) toondelamour / Getty Images

Photo 2 Credit: (c) Cecilie_Arcurs / Getty Images

Photo 3 Credit: (c) FG Trade / Getty Images

Photo 4 Credit: (c) SDI Productions / Getty Images

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