Every year people have questions about the flu vaccine. With the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to be informed and take steps to protect yourself and those you love.
The flu virus can travel up to six feet when someone coughs, sneezes or talks. Droplets can land in the nose or mouth or be inhaled into the lungs. The flu is contagious – this means you should stay away from those who are sick, and if you are sick, you should not be around other people.
The flu shot/vaccine protects you from getting the flu. Here are answers to some of the most common questions about the flu vaccine.
What is a flu shot?
The flu shot is a vaccine given with a needle, usually in the arm. It protects against three to four influenza viruses. It is developed based on research that suggests which virus(es) may be the most common during the upcoming season. A high dose vaccine is available for adults over the age of 65.
Why do I need to get a flu shot every year?
Flu viruses change quickly, so last year’s vaccine may not protect you against this year’s viruses. When you get the vaccine, your immune system produces antibodies to protect you from the viruses. Over time antibody levels will decrease. This is why it’s recommended to receive a vaccine every year.
Why is it so important to get your flu shot this year?
It is very likely flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will spread together this fall and winter. Flu vaccines are approved by the FDA to prevent influenza. The flu vaccine will not prevent COVID-19. The CDC urges everyone to get their flu shot this year to reduce respiratory illnesses and the burden these illnesses can put on the health care system as we continue to treat COVID-19 patients.
Can I have flu and COVID-19 at the same time?
Yes, that’s another reason why getting the flu shot is so important this year.
Is the flu a serious illness?
Yes, the flu can be serious enough to hospitalize people, and for some, it can be deadly.
Can the flu vaccine give me the flu?
No, the vaccine does not cause the flu.
Do I still need to wear a mask if I get a flu shot?
Yes, wearing a mask is still recommended to protect yourself against other viruses, including COVID-19.
Who should get a flu shot?
Everyone six months of age and older should get a flu shot every year.
When should I get a flu shot? Is it too early to get a flu shot right now?
September and early October are usually the best times to get your flu vaccine. So now is the perfect time, preferably before October 31. You want to get your flu shot before the flu is widespread in the community, so you’ll be protected.
Does the vaccine work right away?
No, it takes about two weeks to build your immunity after getting the flu shot. That’s why it’s important to get your flu shot before the illness is widespread.
How long will the flu shot protect me?
Six months is the amount of time a flu shot is thought to offer protection.
What side effects can happen after a flu shot?
Common side effects include soreness, redness, swelling where the shot was given, nausea, headache, muscle aches and fatigue.
Where can I get a flu vaccine?
You can get your flu vaccine at many places including your doctor’s office, urgent care locations and pharmacies.
Michael Sayers, MD
Michael Sayers, MD, is a board certified doctor with Family Medicine of Lincoln, part of the Bryan Physician Network.