This fall may possibly be the most important time ever to get a flu vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as infectious disease experts, say this fall may be precarious as both flu and COVID-19 will be circulating.

According to the CDC, efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, such as stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders, have led to decreased use of routine preventive medical services, including immunization services.

"There has never been a more important year to get the flu vaccination," Dr. Matthew Browning, M.D., Urgent Team chief medical officer, said in a Baptist Health news release. "With many states continuing to show high rates of COVID-19 infection, risking contracting both the COVID-19 and flu virus this season may lead to serious medical complications."

Health care and infectious disease experts warn there is a risk of contracting both flu and COVID-19, as dual infections are not uncommon.

"If someone contracts both COVID-19 and flu at the same time, this would increase the risk of requiring treatment in the intensive care unit and also make them more susceptible to other major illnesses like bacterial pneumonia," Browning said.

While there is currently not a vaccination for COVID-19, there is a flu vaccine and it has many important benefits.

"Although a flu vaccination will not protect you from COVID-19 – and it’s not a guarantee you won’t get the flu – the vaccine has been shown to reduce the severity if you do catch flu, thus reducing the risk of hospitalization and even death," Browning explained. "Staying healthy by getting a flu vaccination this year will also help to conserve potentially scarce health care resources."

"September and October are the best times to get vaccinated to obtain immunity throughout flu season," Browning added. "However, getting the vaccination later in the season is better than not at all. Also, remember that it takes two weeks after your shot to achieve full benefit, so continue to avoid those with flu symptoms until then."

The CDC recommends everyone ages 6 months and older should get a flu shot. The odds are in the favor of those who get the shot, Baptist Health explains. Being vaccinated decreases the chances of getting flu by more than half.

"Even if you do catch flu, a vaccination can make symptoms milder," a Baptist Health news release. "Last year’s flu shot doesn’t count. The virus from last year might not be the same as this year’s vaccination. You’ll protect others, too! By being vaccinated, you’ll slow the spread of flu virus to those around you."

Baptist Health Urgent Care centers in Benton, Bryant, Cabot, Fort Smith, Jacksonville, Little Rock (two centers) and North Little Rock now offer the 2020-2021 flu vaccination for the A (H3N2), A (H1N1) and influenza B viruses. Available are:

· Fluzone Quadrivalent- for patients age 6 months and older (first time flu shot patients up to age 9 may require two separate doses one month apart);

· Flublok Quadrivalent- for patients age 18 and older; and

· Fluzone High-Dose Quidrivalent – for patients 65 and older.

The vaccination is covered by most insurance plans at no cost to the patient. Also, flu vaccines are generally free for anyone with Medicare Part B, employer health insurance or other insurance that conforms to the Affordable Care Act, as well as for many Medicaid beneficiaries. At Baptist Health Urgent Care, patients are encouraged to use Hold My Spot online to schedule a time for their flu shot.

In addition, because flu and COVID-19 share many of the same symptoms, testing for both illnesses will be extremely important. Baptist Health Urgent Care offers testing for both flu and COVID-19. For more information about the flu or to find a Baptist Health Urgent Care center near you, visit