Do I need a flu shot and other questions

Do I need a flu shot and other questions

Author: Asha K. Shah, MD, MS

Remember the flu: the respiratory virus that gives your body fever and aches?

We haven’t seen a lot of flu in the last couple of years, due to lockdown, mask-wearing and other measures that have been implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19. Now that COVID-19 cases are starting to drop, so are the mitigation measures. This means we can expect greater flu transmission this year, which is why you and your family, including children aged 6 months and older, should be vaccinated against the flu right now.

To help guide you, here are answers to common questions from patients:

How long will the flu vaccine take to be effective?

The flu shot takes up to two weeks to provide maximum immunity. Vaccination by the end of October will give you protection that lasts well into early spring. If you can’t get vaccinated until November or later, it’s not too late – get an injection ASAP.

Do you expect this flu season to be worse than it was in the past?

The flu is seasonal. It usually lasts from winter to early spring, sometimes in late May. It was not surprising to see a significant decrease in the spread of influenza over the past two years, with schools closed, parties and weddings canceled, and people working and gathering remotely. Once the mitigation measures were relaxed earlier this year, we saw a spike in flu cases even in the summer. In Australia and New Zealand, where winter is the opposite of our summer, more cases of flu were seen and the season started earlier. This could foretell an equally difficult season here at home.

What age groups should be most concerned about the flu?

Influenza can cause serious complications and turn fatal, especially in young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with certain medical conditions. It can be especially dangerous for people age 65 or older, especially if they have other medical problems such as lung or heart disease that increase the risk of hospitalization.

I got a flu shot last year. Do I really need it again?

There are different strains of influenza virus that can change each year. Getting the flu shot annually is important because the vaccine you received last year may not protect you from this year’s strains. In addition, the protection you get from the vaccine can wane over time. New flu vaccines are manufactured annually, using the strains of the virus most commonly circulating in the previous season. We won’t know how the flu vaccine stacks up until the end of the flu season, once we’ve entered all the data.

Can the flu vaccine give me the flu?

The vaccine will Not It gives you the flu because it doesn’t contain a live virus. It is also not guaranteed to be 100% effective. But it’s still important to get vaccinated to prevent severe illness and hospitalization.

Is it safe to give the flu vaccine to my baby or young child?

The Centers for Disease Control urges everyone 6 months of age and older to get a flu shot every year. Most children only need one dose, but some children between 6 months and 8 years old may need two doses. Ask your pediatrician what is best for your child. They build up their immune systems and can be more susceptible to infection if they haven’t been sick in two years.

Is it safe to get the flu and COVID vaccine at the same time?

Both adults and children can get the flu and COVID vaccines at the same time. If you cannot schedule both vaccinations at the same visit, schedule two appointments. They are that important.

How do I schedule a flu shot?

Call your primary care physician’s office today to schedule a flu and/or COVID vaccination appointment. You can also get a flu shot at the Walk-In Center, located at 292 Long Ridge Road in Stamford, which is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., and Saturday/Sunday 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. For those looking for a new doctor, many of our primary care physicians are accepting new patients, and you can use our website to find a doctor near you to schedule a flu shot as well.

We wish you a healthy, safe and flu-free season!

About the author

Asha K. Shah, MD, MS, is the director of infectious diseases at Stamford Health.

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