Flu shots are critical to your winter health. You may think that you’re immune from the flu. But you’re not. Everyone is at risk, and regardless of age, you definitely need a flu shot.
Each year, 5 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The flu can be severe and deadly, even for healthy young people. The best way to prevent the flu? The flu shot.
That’s especially true this year with COVID-19 in the mix. The CDC states on its website: “It’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both spread this fall and winter.” Peak flu levels usually occur between late December and early March. These two viruses combined could result in a “twindemic.”
Additionally, getting a flu shot will not only protect you and your family, but it can also reduce the strain on the healthcare system while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, during the 2018-2019 flu season, vaccinations prevented an estimated 4.4 million influenza illnesses, 2.3 million influenza-associated medical visits, 58,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations, and 3,500 influenza-associated deaths, according to the CDC. And while a flu shot won’t always prevent you from getting the flu, it can reduce your illness severity by 40 to 60 percent.
Do you need a flu shot every year?
Yes, flu shots are needed annually because a person’s immune protection declines over the months and viruses can mutate. Vaccines are updated each year to target the viruses circulating in that particular season.
Who should get a flu shot?
Everyone over the age of six months should get a flu shot yearly. People at high risk for the flu include: pregnant women, children 6 months to 5 years old, anyone who cares for or lives with infants, healthcare workers and adults 50 years and older.
A small percentage of people should not get a flu shot because of underlying health conditions. If you have had allergic reactions to flu vaccinations in the past or have underlying health conditions, ask your doctor about getting a flu shot. You can also learn more at the CDC website.
How does a flu vaccine protect you?
Flu vaccines trigger the body to make antibodies about two weeks after vaccination. The antibodies offer protection against infection with the viruses that are used to create the vaccine.
When should I get a flu shot? Now!
It’s not too late to get your flu vaccine. While it takes two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop, the old adage is true: better late than never. Many pharmacies administer flu shots, and some clinics are offering drive-thru flu shot clinics. Check with your primary care doctor about flu vaccinations in your area. Remember, flu shots are critical to your winter health.
Flu vaccination myths
You cannot get the flu from a flu vaccination.
The flu vaccine does not increase your risk of getting sick from COVID-19.
However, it is possible to get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. One more reason to get a flu shot!