Every year it’s critical to get your flu shot.
This winter it’s especially important to get a flu shot because COVID-19 and its variants are still circulating.
Before the emergence of COVID-19, influenza activity in the United States typically began to increase in the fall and peaked in February. During the 2021-22 season, activity began to increase in November and remained elevated until mid-June and featured two distinct waves.
To prevent the same thing from happening this year, the Food and During Administration specifically selected influenza vaccine strains based on The World Health Organization’s recommended Northern Hemisphere 2022-23 vaccine composition.
And, while fear of a twindemic has not come to pass, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s likely that flu viruses, along with COVID-19 and its variants, will spread during the fall and winter. That’s why it’s critical to get both your flu and COVID-19 vaccinations as soon as possible.
COVID-19 and a flu vaccine at the same time? Yes!
You can receive both flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same visit. If you need a COVID-19 booster, talk to your healthcare provider to see if you can get it when you get your flu vaccine.
Had the flu? Get vaccinated anyway!
If you had the flu in previous years, you may think you’re immune. But the virus changes, and your immune protection declines over time. Everyone is at risk, regardless of age. The flu can be severe and deadly, even for healthy young people. The best way to prevent the flu? The flu shot.
According to the CDC, 5% to 20% of the U.S. population gets the flu in a normal year. Getting the flu shot not only protects you and your family but 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%.
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 change. Vaccines are updated each year to target the viruses circulating in that season.
Will you feel bad after the flu shot?
Some people report having mild side effects after flu vaccination. The most common side effects from flu shots are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches also may occur. If these reactions occur, they usually begin soon after vaccination and last 1-2 days.
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.
The flu can be serious, particularly in young children, older adults, and people with certain chronic health conditions, such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes.
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 on 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 you get a flu shot? Now!
It is important to get a flu shot every year. You should get your flu vaccine as soon as possible, but ideally, get it by the end of October for maximum protection. It takes two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop. 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.
Be sure to wear a mask when you go to get your flu shot and remember to social distance.
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.
- It’s not better to get the flu and build natural immunity than to get the flu vaccine.
- You do not need two flu shots. One will do the job.
- Pregnant women should get vaccinated. Vaccination reduces the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection in pregnant people by about 50%.
What isn’t a myth? It is possible to get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. One more reason to get a flu shot! Protect yourself and your loved ones.