The Flu in 2020: 3 Things You Need to Know
Though COVID-19 has monopolized conversations about our health this season, influenza is still a major concern and should be taken seriously. The flu is a contagious disease caused by various strains of viruses that attack the respiratory tract. It can lead to serious complications, hospitalization, or even death, but it is preventable. Getting a flu shot is the best way to protect you and your family.
Just as we’ve seen with COVID-19, even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to loved ones and friends. “As the flu is generally the most dangerous for older adults and younger children… much like wearing a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19, getting a flu shot is about your protection but also about protecting loved ones who may be more vulnerable,” says Dr. Keith Falter of Physicians for Women.
Here are 3 things you should know about getting a flu shot this year:
1) Now is the time to act.
The best time to get your flu vaccine is by the end of October. Everyone* 6 months of age and older should receive the flu vaccine. It's very important that the following groups receive immunizations because they either are/live with/care for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications:
- Pregnant women
- Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
- People 50 years of age and older
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- People who live with/care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including healthcare workers, household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu, and household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (too young to be vaccinated)
*Contraindications Persons who have had a severe reaction to a flu immunization in the past. Persons with fever. Persons who have received other types of vaccines within the last 14 days. Persons who are allergic to eggs, chickens, chicken dander, chicken feathers. If you are allergic to eggs or chickens you can receive a vaccine that does not come from eggs such as Flucelvax which we use in the majority of our offices, or Flu Blok.
2) The flu vaccine will not give you the flu.
An injection of the flu vaccine will not give you the flu, because the vaccines are made from inactivated or partial viruses. Side effects of flu vaccines are generally mild in adults and don’t occur often. Reactions may include tenderness at the injection site, fever, chills, headaches or muscular aches. Symptoms may last up to 48 hours and if they do occur, may do so 6-12 hours after the injection.
“Your immune response to the vaccine is how your body is learning to recognize what the disease will be and how to fight it, and some people do get symptoms from that response, but that’s not the disease itself,” says Dr. Elizabeth Kelly of Candlewood Center for Women’s Health.
3) If you are pregnant, you can get the flu vaccine at your Women’s Health Connecticut provider’s office.
Pregnancy can increase the risk of complications from the flu, so pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized from complications of the flu than non-pregnant women of the same age. This is due to the changes in the mother’s immune system that allow her to tolerate her baby who is essentially a stranger and may even have a different blood type. These changes can make her less resistant to the flu and increase her risk during pregnancy
If you are pregnant, you may get a flu shot at your prenatal care visit with your Women’s Health Connecticut provider. If you are not pregnant, as we have a limited number of doses, you can get vaccinated at your primary care provider’s office, at most major pharmacies, or at an urgent care center. Visit vaccinefinder.org to learn about the vaccine supply in your area.
For more information about the flu vaccine, watch our Physician Round Table video.