The arrival of flu season always raises questions. You may be asking yourself: Do I really need a flu shot? When should I get it? Are you going to make me sick?
Factor in COVID-19 and you may have more things to consider. Is it safe to get the flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccine or booster vaccine at the same time? Influenza cases were so low during the pandemic, is influenza really worth worrying above all else?
To help clear up some of the confusion, it’s helpful to hear from a talking doctor. Purvi S. Barrick, M.D.an allergist and immunologist at NYU Langone Health in New York City, shares her insights.
Ask the Doctor: Why Get the Flu Vaccine?
Purvi Parikh, MD: It is very important to get a flu shot because every year the flu virus causes many deaths, many hospitalizations, and many long-term complications – especially in the elderly, immunocompromised, or those who may have respiratory lung disease.
However, even if you are young and in good health, even if you have a milder type of flu, you are at risk of passing it on to a loved one, who may then have more serious complications.
Children are also at risk, especially because their immune systems are still developing. And we see infant deaths from influenza every year.
EH: Who should get the flu shot and who shouldn’t?
PP: Anyone 6 months of age or older should get a flu shot. Whether you have a serious chronic condition that puts you at higher risk for severe flu complications, it’s a good idea to protect yourself and others. If you get the flu, you are at risk of passing it on to someone who is more susceptible than you.
Those who should not get the flu vaccine are those who have had a previous allergic reaction to the flu vaccine or may be allergic to a component of the flu vaccine. Or if you have a rare neurological complication of the flu vaccine called Guillain-Barré.
But it’s always a good idea to discuss with your doctor whether it’s a good idea to get a flu shot.
E.H.: Some people worry that the flu shot could make them sick.
PP: flu vaccine I can not They make you sick because the flu vaccine contains an inactive version of the flu virus that your immune system can identify and raise your immediate immune response to, without actually contracting the virus.
You may get some of the expected side effects from the flu vaccine, which we see with other vaccines, such as feeling tired. Or you may have a headache for a few days or pain at the injection site. However, it is much better than being infected with the actual virus itself.
E.H.: What is the best month to get a flu shot? Is it too early or too late?
PP: In general, flu season is worst during fall and winter, so most people will get their flu shot at that time anywhere between September, October, and November. However, it is never too early or never too late to protect yourself from the flu. The flu virus is here all year round, so even if you caught it a couple of months ago, or even if you caught it in the summer months, it’s still essential to protect yourself.
E.H.: You may still get the flu even if you get the flu shot. Why do you care?
PP: The goal of the flu shot isn’t necessarily to prevent you from getting sick at all, but to make sure that if you do get the flu, you either don’t get or become infected with a more serious version of the flu virus. A shorter, more moderate cycle.
This is to prevent more serious complications of influenza, such as hospitalization, death, and secondary pneumonia. And again, by getting everyone a flu shot, we can even protect those vulnerable members of our community and those in our family who may be elderly or who may have conditions that put them at greater risk for flu complications.
E.H.: What do people 65 and older need to know about the flu vaccine?
PP: People 65 and older may not have as strong an immune response as those who are younger. Also, their immune responses sometimes wear off a little sooner than those under 65 years of age. For this reason, we have Highly effective influenza vaccine Also available every year.
Therefore, these individuals should discuss with their doctor whether a highly effective vaccine is appropriate.