What’s the easiest way to reduce doctor visits, missed school days and work days, and your chances of getting sick this winter?
As leaves change and fall arrives, so does the seasonal influenza (flu). The flu shot is an easy way to protect yourself from this extremely contagious and potentially serious disease. The vaccine is safe, fast, and effective for anyone over six months old. Unlike other vaccines you may have had, it must be administered yearly because strains of the virus are constantly changing. Each year the vaccine protects against multiple flu strains.
A flu shot is always a good bet, but this year it’s more important than ever. It’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will be spreading at the same time this fall and winter, increasing the chance that healthcare systems could be overwhelmed. It’s also possible to have both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. The symptoms are similar, and the only way to tell the difference is testing for both. With a flu shot you protect not only yourself, but everyone you encounter and the healthcare workers that serve your community.
The CDC has issued guidelines for vaccinations during a pandemic, including appointments to avoid overcrowding, ensuring staff wear personal protective equipment like masks, and physical distancing in waiting rooms. If you have a mild cold or other minor illness, you can still get the flu shot. However, those who have tested positive for COVID-19 are advised to wait until they have met the criteria to discontinue isolation to avoid exposing others to the virus.
It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become fully effective, so early in the fall is the ideal time to get the shot, before flu season takes hold. The CDC recommends getting your flu shot by the end of October. Children who need two doses of vaccine should begin the process sooner, since the doses must be given four weeks apart.
It’s especially important for people at high risk of developing flu-related complications to get vaccinated. This includes adults age 65 and older, those who are pregnant, children under two, and those with chronic health conditions such as asthma, heart disease, or diabetes. Effectiveness of the vaccine varies from year to year, but you’re as much as 60% less likely to catch the flu if you got the vaccine—and even if you do catch it, studies suggest that your symptoms will be less severe.
Many insurance plans cover the flu shot at no cost, but even paying out of pocket is very affordable. All sorts of locations from pharmacies to grocery stores to big box stores offer flu vaccination—including all five QueensCare Health Centers!