Did you get your flu shot yet? Now is the time.
Oct 22, 2019

Did you know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends getting your influenza (flu) vaccine by the end of October?

Image by Heather Hazzan, SELF Magazine

Although you might just think of flu as a bad cold, the truth is that it can be a very serious and potentially deadly disease. Flu spreads through the air when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk, and other people nearby breathe in the flu virus. In fact, people with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. The flu virus can also be spread when a person wipes their eyes or puts their hands in their mouth or nose after touching a surface that has flu virus on it. Flu spreads quickly through communities as the virus passes from person to person.

Why get the flu shot now?

Image by Heather Hazzan, SELF Magazine

There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to flu each year. We never know exactly when flu activity in the U.S. is going to peak each year or how long the flu season is going to last, but research shows that flu activity often begins to increase in October, and the season usually peaks sometime between December and February, and can continue as late as May.  And while the flu varies in its severity each year, we know that the flu always brings serious consequences. Every season the flu causes millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands and hospitalizations and thousands or tens of thousands of deaths. According to the CDC, last season, there were between 531,000 and 647,000 hospitalizations, and between 36,000 and 61,000 deaths from flu, including 138 children. This is why the CDC recommends that you and all of your family members 6 months and older get vaccinated against flu by the end of October.

Since it takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to provide protection, you want to make sure you are protected as much as possible before flu begins spreading in your community. And if you have children between 6 months and 8 years old, they will require two doses of flu vaccine. Since those doses must be given at least four weeks apart, you need to get them vaccinated now so they can have as much protection as possible before the flu begins spreading in your community.

What are the benefits of flu vaccine?

Even though the effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies season to season and in different age groups, getting the flu vaccine can still provide you and your family members with important, lifesaving benefits.

Getting the flu vaccine can:

  • Keep you from getting sick with flu.
  • Help you get back on your feet sooner if you do get sick with the flu.
  • Reduce your risk of getting hospitalized due to flu.
  • Reduce the risk of your children dying from flu.
    • A 2017 study shows flu vaccine reduces risk of death in children by half.
  • Protect women during and after pregnancy.
    • Vaccination during pregnancy helps protect moms and their babies for the first few months after birth.
  • Help protect people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness and complications due to age and/or certain chronic health conditions.
    • Vaccination can lower the risk of complications from diabetes and heart disease.

Which flu vaccine should I get?

Image by Heather Hazzan, SELF Magazine

Every year, new flu vaccines are created to help protect against the 3 or 4 flu viruses that research shows will be most common during the upcoming season. There are different kinds of flu vaccines available this season including regular flu shots, high dose flu shots and nasal spray. Both CDC and AAP recommend that people get vaccinated with any licensed, age-appropriate flu vaccine. They don’t recommend any one flu vaccine over another.

Can the flu shot give me the flu?

No. The way that flu shots are made they cannot cause the flu. Flu shots are made from either flu viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ (killed) OR a single gene from a flu virus (instead of the full virus) so they can create an immune response without causing a flu infection.

While some people may get mild side effects from the flu shot like a sore arm, a headache, muscle aches or a low fever, those side effects usually begin soon after the shot and only last 1 -2 days.

Why do some people not feel well or feel like they have flu symptoms after getting the flu vaccine?

The most common side effects from flu vaccine are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Some people also report having a low fever, headache and muscle aches. If these side effects occur, they usually begin soon after getting the shot and last 1-2 days.

Besides side effects, there are several reasons why someone might get flu symptoms, even after they have been vaccinated against flu.

  • Some people can get sick from other respiratory viruses like rhinoviruses that cause symptoms similar to flu, and also spread and cause people to get sick during the flu season. The flu vaccine only protects you from the flu, not other illnesses.
  • It is possible to be exposed to flu viruses shortly before getting vaccinated or during the two-week period after vaccination. Since it takes those two weeks after vaccinating people to develop immunity, they can get the flu before their flu vaccine takes effect.
  • Some people may have flu-like symptoms even after getting vaccinated because they were exposed to a flu virus that is very different from the viruses the vaccine is designed to protect against. The ability of a flu vaccine to protect a person depends largely on the “match” between the 3 or 4 flu viruses chosen for the vaccine that season and those spreading and causing illness. There are many different flu viruses that spread and cause illness among people.
  • Since the flu vaccine can vary in how well it works season to season, sometimes people who get vaccinated may still get sick. However, the flu vaccine will still help protect you and your family members from serious flu illness and its complications.

Visit the Vaccinate Your Family website for more information on flu and the safe and effective flu vaccine, and share a picture of you and your family getting their flu vaccine on social media or share your story about why vaccinating against the flu is important to you! Tag it using #WhyIFightFlu.

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