Getting the Flu Shot is More Important Than Ever!

September 24, 2020

This year, getting vaccinated against the flu is more important than ever. Annual flu shots protect us against the three or four influenza virus strains that have been determined to be the most common during the upcoming flu season. The influenza (flu) shot is a vaccine given with a needle, usually in the arm, and is the best way to protect yourself and others from contracting the flu each year.

How are things different this year?

    1. People who have already had COVID-19 may be at increased risk of contracting the flu and developing flu complications. 
    2. Our healthcare system is already strained due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Seeking treatment for the flu, which is typically preventable or minimized with a flu shot, can increase the strain on hospitals, clinics, and urgent care facilities. 
    3. COVID-19 has affected the American people's finances and employment. Absenteeism from work will increase if employees become sick with the flu. 
    4. The symptoms of COVID-19 and the seasonal flu are very similar, therefore causing uncertainty of diagnosis, the need for multiple tests, and possible quarantine while determining the cause of your symptoms. 

Recommendations for Flu Season 2020-2021

Routine annual influenza vaccination is recommended for all people above the age of 6 months who don't have absolute medical contraindications, where an "event or substance could cause a life-threatening situation," which prevents you from receiving the flu shot.

High-risk groups and their caregivers who should prioritize getting the flu shot this year

    1. Children from 6 months to 5 years of age
    2. Adults over the age of 50
    3. People with chronic lung, heart, kidney, liver, neurologic, hematologic, or metabolic disorders (including diabetes).
    4. Anyone who is immunocompromised
    5. Pregnant women
    6. Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities
    7. Healthcare providers
    8. Caregivers and close contacts of all individuals listed above

In previous years you may not have gotten the flu shot. People have lots of reasons they don't want to receive this immunization. Below is a list of reasons you might have rejected the flu vaccine in the past and why it is essential you get one this year.

#1: I never get the flu.

If you or the people around you have already had COVID-19, they may be at increased risk for the flu and its complications. Just because you have been fortunate in the past does not mean you are immune to the flu. 

#2: The flu shot makes me sick/gives me the flu.

There are possible side effects of the flu vaccine. Flu vaccine side effects are generally mild and go away on their own within a few days. Common side effects from a flu shot include soreness, redness, swelling in and around the vaccination site, headache (low grade), fever, nausea, muscle aches, and fatigue. The flu shot, like other injections, can occasionally cause fainting.

#3: The flu shot doesn't work.

The effectiveness of the flu vaccine can vary. The protection provided by the flu vaccine can depend on many factors, including the age and health status of the person getting the vaccine. Getting the flu shot can decrease your symptoms' severity and length if you do end up getting sick.  

There are several reasons why you might get flu symptoms, even after vaccination.

    1. You can get sick from other respiratory viruses besides flu such as rhinoviruses associated with the common cold, cause symptoms similar to flu, and spread and cause illness during the flu season. The flu vaccine only protects against the flu, not other conditions. 
    2. You may have been exposed to flu viruses, which cause flu shortly before getting vaccinated, or during the two weeks after vaccination, it takes your body to develop immune protection; this can cause you to get sick with the flu before protection from vaccination takes effect.
    3. You were exposed to a strain different from those the vaccine was designed to prevent. A flu vaccine's effectiveness depends mainly on the similarity or "match" between the strains selected to develop the vaccine and those currently causing it. It is not possible to create a flu vaccine that protects you from all types of flu. 
    4. Unfortunately, flu vaccines vary in effectiveness, and some people who get vaccinated still get sick. No vaccine is 100% effective.

#4: I'm allergic to eggs.

People with egg allergies can receive any licensed, recommended, age-appropriate influenza vaccine (IIV, RIV4, or LAIV4) otherwise appropriate. People who have a history of severe egg allergy (those who have had symptoms other than hives after exposure to egg) should be vaccinated in a medical setting, supervised by a health care provider who can recognize and manage severe allergic reactions. Two egg-free (ovalbumin-free) flu vaccine options available are the quadrivalent recombinant and quadrivalent cell-based vaccine.

COVID-19 Update 9/24/20

We have experienced many tragic deaths during this pandemic. The COVID-19 crisis has finally shown us the importance of keeping our hands clean and practicing proper sneeze and cough etiquette and other infection control measures. These recommendations are the same for all respiratory illnesses (including flu). Let's use this heightened awareness to our advantage and do all we can to prevent the flu this season. Do your part to prevent the spread this year by getting your flu shot today.

Questions about the upcoming COVID-19 Vaccine

Talking about the seasonal flu vaccine can raise questions about the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine. There are more than 40 vaccines currently in clinical trials on humans with many more under active investigation in animals. The first human trials started in March and continue today. Moderna and Pfizer are both in phase 3 testing, with more than 100,000 people having received vaccines in these trials. The coronavirus vaccine is being delivered in two separate doses and early results are promising for future protection against COVID-19.

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