The Flu Shot, Should You Get It?

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

by: Garey Huff, Jr., MD

It’s that time of year again, the leaves are falling, the days are shorter, and the weather is turning chilly. It’s also the time of year when flu vaccination clinics abound. This year, however, is not like any other year as everyday life has completely changed due to COVID-19. Now more than ever, it’s important to get your flu vaccination. Let’s explore why!

Why get the flu shot?

The flu vaccine can help prevent you from coming down with influenza. It also prevents millions of doctors’ visits a year. In the 2018-2019 flu season, the vaccine prevented an estimated 4.4 million influenza illnesses, 2.3 million medical visits, 58,000 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths. During the most effective years, the vaccine has reduced the chances of having to go to the doctor by up to 60%.

Provider entering patient room

Who should get the flu shot?

The CDC recommends that EVERYONE, 6 months and older get the flu shot before the end of October, but there are some high-risk groups who should receive the vaccination as soon as possible:

  • Children 6 months to five years old
  • Adults, 65 years and older (These individuals produce fewer antibodies to the flu, so a different, “high dose” vaccine is administered.)
  • Pregnant women (Only get the flu shot, not the nasal spray.)
  • People with chronic medical conditions (If you think you may have a chronic medical condition that makes you more susceptible to the flu, speak to your doctor.)

It’s preferable to receive the flu shot as soon as it’s available, since it takes up to two weeks for antibodies to develop in the immune system. Receiving a flu shot early in the season will not require an additional dose later in the season. Children, 6 months to 8 years will need 2 flu shots (in divided doses) only if they are getting a flu shot for the very first time.

The flu shot will not protect you from COVID-19, but it can keep you out of the hospital. During this pandemic, hospital resources are stretched thin. If we, as a community can do our part to protect ourselves from the flu, this will help our hospitals continue to provide the care needed for all our COVID-19 patients. Let’s do our part! Receive your flu vaccination as early as possible, practice good hygiene, wear your mask and stay six feet apart.