Flu Season 101
Our patients ask excellent questions every year regarding flu and the flu shot.
We recommend flu shots for everybody though we support our patients whether or not they choose to receive one. Because of mask-wearing and social distancing, last year’s flu season was remarkably light. With restrictions lifted we expect a more typical year.
The COVID vaccines’ distribution and discussions about them have caused many people to feel vaccine fatigue and that is understandable. Nevertheless, since a COVID/Influenza “twin-demic” could cause hospital bed shortages, it is important that we diminish the flu burden by making sure a high percentage of us get vaccinated.
Here are some great questions we typically hear (and a new one or two):
• Is it safe to get the COVID and Flu vaccines at the same time?
Yes. It is safe to get vaccinated against flu and COVID even on the same day.
• Should I get the flu shot even if I’ve never had the flu?
Yes. Flu is nasty, killed 22,000 in the U.S. in 2019-20, and hospitalized hundreds of thousands. I’ve treated many “first-timers” who make sure they get the flu shot the following year.
• Can the flu shot give me the flu?
No. A percentage of folks feely crummy for a day or two after a flu shot, but it is not possible to contract flu from the vaccine or spread it.
• Should I wait until December to get my shot so that my immunity stays strong throughout the flu season?
The best time to get the flu vaccine is before the end of October which is when cases typically spike. There is no evidence that waiting longer protects against waning immunity. We start to push flu vaccines mid-September and would like all our patients to be vaccinated before they start holiday travel.
• Is it safe to go to the doctor’s office to get a shot?
In our office it is safe because we screen everyone before they are allowed in the clinic, and everyone wears masks. If you prefer a drive-through option check with the larger pharmacy chains.
• Will the flu shot guarantee I won’t get the flu?
No, but it significantly lowers your chances, and it is remarkably protective against influenza related hospitalization and death. Don't forget that the flu shot protects the people around you as much as it protects you.
• Should children get the flu shot?
Yes, and since children shed virus for longer periods of time they are the primary flu spreaders each year. Childern under 8 years old get two shots.
• I have an egg allergy. Does that mean I cannot take the flu shot?
No. There are non-egg based flu shots available. Our office can order one for you.
• Should people age 65 and older get a stronger flu shot?
All the flu shots are quadravalent (cover four flu strains) and though there are high-dose flu shots available, the CDC does not prefer them over the classic shot.
• Is it true that getting the flu builds my immune system more than getting the vaccine?
That may or may not be true, but it is a dangerous path. If we advised everyone to expose themselves to flu, thousands more would die every year. Flu shots are very safe and prevent millions of cases, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and tens of thousands of deaths every year.
You want to spend your fall and winter doing what you love and that is what we desire for you as your physicians. Please get with us and get vaccinated.
So, what are you waiting for? If you have other questions or concerns, we are happy to schedule a time to visit. You can schedule to see one of us in person or via telehealth at www.texas-family-medicine.com.
For more information check the American Heart Association website at https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/flu-prevention.
Brian Byrd, MD