Why getting a flu shot early might be a good idea
Another flu season is on the horizon and, unfortunately, COVID-19 is still here. Family medicine physician Sara Henriques, MD, explained why she’s recommending we get a flu shot earlier this season.
“For the last couple of years, there was actually much less flu than there was in all previous seasons. Our theory is that because we were wearing masks to prevent COVID we also prevented flu. But we’re anticipating something different this flu season.”
Why is she expecting an increase in flu this season compared to last season? There has been a significant rise in flu cases in Australia, which is often a predictor. Also, fewer people are taking COVID precautions.
How soon should I get my flu shot?
It’s typically recommended that people get a flu vaccine before the end of October because the immunity from the flu vaccine wears off with time. If you get it too soon, it could wear off before the peak season. And if you get it too late, you might not have your full immunity for peak season. The end of October has been the optimal time.
“For people who are at higher risk, you’re going to want to get the flu shot as soon as possible,” Dr. Henriques said. That includes children, pregnant women and the elderly population.
Why is it important to get a flu shot?
Dr. Henriques said there are a lot of things that are out of our control, and it’s hard to predict what will happen. “But you’re going to want to do everything you can to keep yourself out of the hospital. Protective measures such as the flu vaccine will allow you to have a milder course if you are to become ill with the flu so you can care for yourself at home. The flu vaccine is effective at preventing flu, and we all need to take advantage of that protection. Of course, nothing’s 100%, which is why the CDC does have to change the vaccine every year to account for the different types of flu virus.”
Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine at the same time?
Yes. The shots are given in separate arms, but you can take both vaccines at the same visit.
If I get sick, how do I know if it’s COVID-19 or the flu?
Both illnesses present the same, so there’s no way to know whether you have the flu or COVID-19, or even if you have both at the same time, until you’re tested.
“If you start to feel ill, please reach out to a medical provider or local pharmacy to get tested. It’s important to get treatment sooner rather than later because we have antivirals for both the flu and for COVID-19,” Dr. Henriques said.
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