Vice President of Clinical Strategies
The constant chatter about COVID-19, vaccines, and boosters might overshadow the other virus poised to strike. Yes, it’s that familiar winter enemy, the flu. There are vaccines to help ward it off — but misinformation and fears continue to circulate. Vaccine fatigue notwithstanding, many people are still confused about whether or when they need the flu shot or just not interested in having yet another vaccine.
The two best reasons for getting this vaccine are still:
- It’s proven year after that that receiving the vaccine helps to ward off the flu
- By getting vaccinated against the flu, you help protect the people you love and those around you.
Here are a few answers to questions I’ve heard:
The flu disappeared last year, so why do I need a flu shot?
Last year there was a record-low number of flu cases. This was due to the combination of widespread mask-wearing, hand-washing, disinfecting, remote work and school, and physical distancing. However, the reopening of schools, businesses and a decreased adherence to pandemic precautions creates the possibility of severe flu season this year. Getting the Flu and COVID-19 together is a recipe for disaster.
Who should get a flu shot?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), anyone six months and older should receive their flu shot. You should not get a flu shot if your doctor has specifically recommended not to because of a prior rare or severe reaction.
When’s the best time to get the flu shot?
Flu season starts in October. The CDC says get your flu vaccine before the end of October. By then, cases will be on the rise, and many people will be traveling for Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, getting vaccinated at any time during the flu season is still beneficial.
Will the flu vaccine keep me from getting the flu?
No. No vaccine is 100% effective. But if you do get the flu, the vaccine is likely to reduce your chance of getting very sick, hospitalized, or dying. Sounds familiar, right? Before last year’s anomaly, thousands were hospitalized and died from the flu each year.
Can I get the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time?
Yes. The CDC had previously recommended spacing out the timing of the COVID-19 vaccine and other immunizations because the vaccines were so new, but that guidance has changed. The CDC now says it’s safe to get both vaccines at once. If you do get two shots on the same day, get each vaccine in a different arm. Doing so may reduce pain and swelling at the injection site.
I’m pregnant. Should I get a flu shot?
Yes. As a bonus, the CDC advises you can pass on the protection to your newborn from Day 1. Since babies can’t get the flu shot until they are six months old, protecting them with their mother’s antibodies will keep them safe until they get their flu vaccine.
I have an allergy to eggs. Am I out of luck?
Not really, says the CDC. Indeed, most flu shots and one nasal spray flu vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration are manufactured using egg-based technology, so they contain a small amount of egg proteins. But studies of both the nasal spray and the shots found that allergic reactions are very rare. However, if you and your doctor feel the risk is too significant, two egg-free vaccines are available: Flublok Quadrivalent (for people 18 and older) and Flucelvax Quadrivalent (approved for age two and up this season).
I’ve never gotten the flu; why shouldn’t I take my chances?
Skipping the flu shot is a much riskier proposition with COVID-19 still prevalent in so many communities. If you get the flu and need care, you may find hospitals unable to accept you because the COVID-19 patients are utilizing all the available resources. You could also get the flu and COVID-19. If you are not vaccinated against either, the risk of your immune system being overwhelmed by two viruses at the same time or back-to-back infections could result in more severe illness.
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