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Now more than ever, Mayo Clinic and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend all people 6 months and older get vaccinated for the flu to protect themselves and others from getting the flu.
"This year, it is doubly important that everyone get the flu vaccine because if people have fever and respiratory symptoms in the fall, the first concern is going to be COVID-19," says Priya Sampathkumar, M.D., an infectious diseases specialist at Mayo Clinic. "The symptoms of the two diseases are hard to tell apart. If you get the flu vaccine, you are less likely to get the flu and less likely to be thought of as a possible COVID-19 case."
Like COVID-19, influenza is a virus that causes respiratory illness, and symptoms can range from mild to severe or life-threatening in children and adults. However, the two illnesses are not the same, and the CDC website outlines the differences. The CDC recommends providers use any licensed, age-appropriate flu vaccine during the 2020–2021 season.
When to get vaccinated for the flu
All patients should be vaccinated for the flu by the end of November to be protected during the region's peak months of flu activity, December through January.
"The biggest concern we have is that every year, somewhere in the time frame between December and January, we see an influenza surge in our hospitals," says Sarah Crane, M.D., director of Primary Care in Southeast Minnesota. "Our ability to handle that peak on top of the volume of patients with COVID-19 in our hospitals right now will be challenging. Our patients can help us greatly by getting their flu vaccines by Thanksgiving this year."
After vaccination, it takes about two weeks to develop antibodies to protect against the flu, which is why early fall vaccination is recommended. If you are sick, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading illness to others.
Patients who have tested positive for COVID-19, have respiratory symptoms or are under quarantine should delay flu vaccination until they are no longer ill or their quarantine period is over.
Scheduling an appointment to be vaccinated for the flu
Appointments are required to be vaccinated for the flu. There will be no walk-in flu vaccination clinics for Mayo Clinic primary care patients at Mayo Clinic in Rochester and Mayo Family Clinic Kasson this year. Self-scheduling flu vaccination appointments online through Patient Online Services, the patient portal, or the Mayo Clinic App is recommended.
These convenient self-service options also prevent wait times on the phone and preserve resources for COVID-19. Alternatively, patients can call their local clinic to schedule an appointment to be vaccinated for the flu. In addition, flu vaccination will be offered to all patients at existing appointments at their local clinic.
To self-schedule for patients between 6 months and 12 years of age, a parent or guardian will need to schedule this appointment using caregiver access to the child's Patient Online Services account. Patients ages 13–17 will need to have their own Patient Online Services accounts to directly schedule flu vaccination appointments. When making an appointment, note that children 6 months through 8 years need two flu vaccines if it is the child's first seasonal flu vaccination. The second vaccine is given at least four weeks from the date of the first.
Where Mayo primary care patients can be vaccinated for the flu
Patients who schedule an appointment to be vaccinated for the flu in Rochester will be directed to the 41st Street Professional Building Campus. Patients should go to the Mayo Professional Northwest Building, 4111 W. Frontage Road Highway 52 Northwest, First Floor, Suite 320. Enter at the north side of the building.
Patients who schedule an appointment to be vaccinated for the flu in Kasson will go to Mayo Family Clinic Kasson, 411 W. Main St., in Kasson.
The cost of seasonal flu vaccination is covered by many insurance plans. Mayo Clinic will bill insurance or accept payment.
For additional information on the flu, visit the Mayo Clinic Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson website.
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