CDC Recommends Flu Shots to Prevent a ‘Potentially Severe Flu Season’

Employers should promote flu shots even as they continue to encourage and require COVID-19 vaccination.
10.14.21 Digest
October 14, 2021
Stephen Massey
Managing Director, Health Action Alliance

The U.S. is “at risk of a potentially severe flu season” this year, according to the CDC. The best defense—just as it is with COVID-19—is vaccination, which public health experts urge for almost all people 6 months and older, starting now. But new polling shows that while most people acknowledge that flu shots provide the best protection, only 42% of adults ages 18-64 intend to get one. Giving in to “vaccine fatigue” is risky for employers, however. 

Health-related absenteeism nearly doubles at the peak of a severe flu season, compared to the lowest time of year. Faced with the current labor market challenges and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, employers should take straightforward steps to educate and encourage their employees to get vaccinated for the flu—even as you do the same for COVID-19.

Employers can expect questions about the flu shot, unique to these times:

Answering these questions, making it easier for employees to get flu shots, and pointing them to additional resources, like and, can help your workers and customers stay healthy during flu season.

Employer Actions for Flu Season

As businesses continue to encourage and even require COVID-19 vaccines, they should also encourage employees to get their annual flu shot. You can make it easier for employees by taking one or more of the following actions: 

Questions and Answers About the Flu and COVID-19

Q: Why are we at risk of a severe flu season this year, but not last fall and winter?

A: Last year, flu transmission was kept at historically low levels when many people were social distancing, wearing masks, and staying home. As a result, we have less natural immunity from the flu this year. The flu shots is our best protection.

Q: What’s the difference between the flu and COVID-19?

A: Flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. The CDC has more information on how the symptoms and contagiousness compare.

Q: Can I have flu and COVID-19 at the same time?

A: Yes. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, you may need a test to tell you if you are sick with one or the other, or both. 

Q: If I get sick with flu, am I at higher risk of contracting COVID-19?

A: Because COVID-19 is still a relatively new illness, there is little data on how flu illness affects the risk of getting COVID-19. We do know that people can be infected with flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 at the same time. Getting vaccinated for the flu and COVID-19 provides the best protection from both viruses.


Q: Will a flu shot protect me against COVID-19?

A: No, the flu shot will not protect against COVID-19. 

Q: Will the flu shot increase my risk of getting COVID-19?

A: No, there is no evidence for this.


Q: Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu shot at the same time?

A: Yes. You can get them together, usually in separate arms. 


Q: Is the flu shot effective?

A: Yes, typically, the flu shot reduces the risk of getting sick with the flu by 40-60%. It’s even more effective in preventing serious flu-related complications like hospitalization and death, most of which occur in people who are not vaccinated. 


Q: Are the side effects worse this year?

A: The side effects remain constant from year to year. The most common side effects from flu shots are soreness, redness, tenderness, or swelling where the shot was given. Some people also report having a low fever, headache, and muscle aches after getting their flu shot. 

Additional Resources

Frequently Asked Questions for the 2021-2022 Flu Season

Print handouts from Vaccinate Your Family

Social media toolkits



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