Should I get the flu shot?


Short answer: Yes! Except for a very few exceptions, flu vaccines are recommended for everyone 6 months and older.

Read on for information about what to expect for this year’s flu season, when to get the shot, and why getting the flu vaccine is so important!

Sometimes people say “the flu” to mean a bad cold, but influenza is a specific illness caused the influenza virus and it is no joke. Influenza comes on suddenly and usually has fever, cough, sore throat, aching muscles, and feeling wiped out. People say if feels like being hit by a train. Some folks can get really sick from flu. People can develop pneumonia, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), sepsis (a life-threatening response to an infection), and even die. In the US 2019-2020 flu season, the CDC estimated flu caused 38 million illnesses, 18 million medical visits, 405,000 hospitalizations, and 22,000 deaths (195 of which were children).

Last year, the flu season was shockingly light (which was fantastic, but not typical). This was probably due to all the measures put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19: things like masking, physical distancing, and keeping kids out of in person school. The Southern hemisphere flu season happens first (starting in June and peaking in August) and is usually a good estimate of how things will go for the Northern hemisphere (where flu starts around October and peaks between December and February). This year, though, the news in mixed. In some countries, like Australia, flu activity was low (see tracking info here). China, on the other hand, had a more typical flu season. We don’t know yet what will happen in the Northern hemisphere 2021-2022 season, but we are already seeing cases of flu creeping up in the US (you can follow the flu surveillance here). As many places open up and people are taking fewer precautions to prevent the spread of Covid, we can expect flu cases to rise.

Remember the buzzword “twindemic” getting thrown around last year? This was the word people were using to describe what it would look like if both flu and COVID-19 cases peaked at the same time. Fortunately, we never met the “twindemic” in 2020, but it is a very real possibility this year. As hospitals and healthcare systems are already overwhelmed with sick people who have COVID-19 infections, adding flu to the mix might just topple any remaining dominos. This is why getting the flu shot this year is SO IMPORTANT. Flu vaccines are safe and effective. Flu shots reduce the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death. During the 19-20 flu season, vaccination prevented an estimated 7.5 million influenza illnesses, 105,000 hospitalizations, and 6,300 deaths.

When is the best time to get your flu shot?

Thanks for asking, friend! The flu shot is recommended for people age 6 months and older. Some children need 2 doses of the shot. These are kids age 6 months to 8 years who have never had the flu shot before OR have not had at least 2 doses of flu vaccine at some point in their lives. Everyone else only needs one dose. The CDC recommends getting the vaccine by the end of October. This timing balances the risk of waning immunity before the flu season ends and getting protected before the flu season really gets started. Pregnant people in their third trimester and kiddos who need 2 doses might wish to get the vaccine even sooner.

Can I get the flu shot at the same time as the COVID-19 shot?

Yes indeed! There is no reason that you can’t get both at the same time. They are usually given in two different sites on the body (for example, one in the right arm and the other in the left). Some people might have more “reactogenicity” symptoms if given both together, meaning they may experience more physical symptoms of the immune system kicking in and ramping up (like headache, fatigue, fever, or sore arms). While that wouldn’t be dangerous, it could feel lousy. If people are just not up for that, they may wish to space out their vaccines by a couple of weeks. Others may wish to just power through, and both are fine options!

For a lot of info about flu vaccines, specific recommendations, and how these recommendations are developed, check out the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recently published recommendations.

Talk to your healthcare team about flu vaccines. As always, this does not substitute medical advice from your clinicians. Ask them any questions you might have. We promise, they love answering vaccine questions. 😊

Stay tuned over the next few weeks for more info about flu and flu vaccines. If you have specific questions about flu or anything else, don’t hesitate to drop us a line in our question box (scroll near the bottom of the page.

Stay safe. Stay sane. Stay flu free.

Those Nerdy Girls

Link to Original FB Post