With all the discussion around COVID-19, it can be easy to overlook more routine health care measures. So, as cooler weather rolls in and you get ready to head out for some fall activities, be proactive and protect your children, as well as yourself, with the flu vaccine.
You might think of flu as a mild illness, but it hospitalizes thousands of people every year. In some cases, people even die from the flu. In fact, it’s estimated that over 500 children die from complications of the flu each year in the United States.
Hear directly from Nicholas Schey, MD, a pediatrician at Bon Secours Pediatrics of Mechanicsville, as he answers some of the more frequently asked questions regarding the flu vaccine.
Who should get a flu shot?
Everyone over six months old should get a flu shot, as long as you have never had a severe allergic reaction to a previous flu vaccine or an ingredient in the current vaccine. If you have any concerns, talk to your primary care provider before receiving your shot.
Can I get a flu shot if I’m allergic to eggs?
Yes, you can. In 2018, based on many studies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that people with any egg allergy can safely get a flu vaccine. There is essentially no risk of a severe reaction, because the amount of egg protein in the vaccine is incredibly low. If, however, you have any concerns about egg allergies, ask your primary care provider about new types of flu vaccines made completely egg-free.
Why should I get a flu vaccine when it might not cover all the strains of flu?
It’s true that sometimes flu vaccines do not match the flu strains perfectly. However, it’s usually at least around 50 percent, which is better than the 0 percent if you don’t get a vaccine. Also, if you get a case of the flu after getting a flu vaccine, it’s typically a less severe case that is also shorter in duration.
With COVID-19, there might be even more reason to get protected with the flu vaccine as:
- The flu and COVID-19 have similar symptoms, so if you get the flu you might end up doing extra testing and isolation for COVID-19.
- Getting the flu and COVID-19 together could be more dangerous.
Won’t flu cases be rare this season like they were last year?
We don’t know for sure, but we expect flu cases to be higher this year because so many of the COVID-19 social distancing policies are no longer in place. Also, part of the reason rates stayed so low last year was that a record number of flu vaccines were given.
Is it OK to get a flu vaccine if I recently had a COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes, there is no time restriction after a COVID-19 vaccine to get any other vaccine, including the flu. You can even get them both at the same time. While initially it was recommended to wait two weeks after a COVID-19 vaccine to get other vaccines, we now know that’s not necessary.
Can I get the flu vaccine if I have COVID-19?
The CDC recommends not getting other vaccines if you have COVID-19 until you are cleared from your isolation, or if you are in a recommended quarantine for COVID-19. After this time period, it’s safe.
Shouldn’t I wait to get my flu shot so that it doesn’t wear off by the end of the season?
No, don’t wait. While some studies have suggested that immunity might wear off with time, this is more likely in older people, and it still provides some protection. Flu cases could start picking up anytime, and you will have no protection if you wait. Also, it takes about two weeks after getting your vaccine to have maximum protection.