An honest conversation with Dr. Tobias Barker about why this year, more than ever, it’s important to get your flu shot.
Have you gotten your flu shot yet?
Call your Paladina Health clinic to make appointments for the entire family today. Flu season is here!
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a lot more conversation this year about vaccines. With that conversation has come an array of questions and myths. So, we decided to consult our in-house expert, Dr. Tobias Barker, Chief Medical Officer for Paladina Health and Activate Healthcare, to set the record straight and address some of the more common questions and concerns. We believe that by providing scientific-based information, we can best help you make smarter healthcare decisions for you and your family.
Why do doctors keep saying the flu shot is more important this year than ever before?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) continues to recognize that people with underlying health conditions are more vulnerable to complications from COVID-19. It’s important that people keep themselves as healthy as possible to have a better chance of fighting off a possible COVID-19 infection. By getting the Influenza (flu) shot and protecting against the flu, you avoid having to potentially fight off two viruses at the same time.
Why should I get vaccinated?
Every year people die from the flu, especially children, elderly, or those with chronic health problems. Getting a flu vaccine will reduce your chance of getting the flu and, even if you do get the flu, the symptoms will be less severe.
Who should be vaccinated?
The flu shot is recommended for anyone six months and older and is especially beneficial for those people considered in a high-risk health category, such as seniors, children and those with underlying health problems, such as heart or lung disease or diabetes. Of note, while the flu shot is for “everyone over the age of 6 months”, emphasis this year is also placed on vaccinating those with conditions that put them at high risk for serious disease with COVID-19. Also, it is recommended that critical infrastructure workers be vaccinated to help preserve the health of those providing essential services.
If I’m healthy, why do I still need the flu shot?
If you are a healthy adult and you get the flu, there is still the chance of horrible complications and even death. Saying that, the most likely outcome is that you are miserable for a week but will recover. In the process, however, you might also spread the flu to your family members, who might not be able to fight off the flu as well (especially children and older adults or those with lung conditions, diabetes, or weakened immune systems). Bottom line: getting a flu vaccine to prevent you from getting the flu will also help protect those around you.
If I get the flu shot, will it protect me from getting COVID-19 or will it make me more vulnerable?
Although the flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses that cause some similar symptoms, they are caused by different viruses. Getting a flu shot does not prevent a COVID infection; nor does it make you more likely to contract COVID. Not spending the body’s resources fighting the flu, however, give you a better chance of fighting off a COVID infection.
Isn’t there a chance I will get sick with the flu since the shot contains the virus?
No. The flu vaccine will never give you the flu. The vaccines we use do not contain any live/active virus.
In terms of reactions: When you get any vaccine, your immune system responds by producing antibodies that protect you from infection. This immune system response MAY cause some symptoms like fatigue, headache, achiness, even low-grade temperature, but usually these symptoms are mild, if they occur at all.
Very rarely, some people may get an allergic reaction to the shot. Typically, there is some pain at the injection site which may be followed by mild aches, headaches and fatigue.
Is it true that a specific flu shot might not protect me at all?
Because the flu mutates every year, a new vaccine is created each season and it may not be a perfect match for that season’s flu. Even if the flu shot is not perfect, however, it will provide some benefit in preventing you from getting severely ill.
Can the flu shot protect me from getting a cold?
The flu vaccine will NOT protect you from other common viruses that cause colds during the fall and winter. In fact, adults average two to three colds per year regardless of whether or not a flu shot is received. So, by coincidence alone, it is not uncommon to catch a cold around the time of year when you receive a flu shot. You should still use precautions, like frequent handwashing/alcohol hand gels and avoiding interaction with those who are ill.
If I got a flu shot last year, do I need another shot this year?
Yes. Your protection from a flu vaccine declines over time. That’s why yearly vaccinations are recommended to provide the best protection. In addition, the flu virus strains mutate from year to year, so the vaccine you received last year may provide little to no protection against this year’s strain.
Are the flu and stomach flu the same thing?
No. Influenza is a respiratory disease (leading to coughing, fever, sore throat, muscle aches, shortness of breath) and not a stomach or intestinal disease. Vomiting, diarrhea and nausea can sometimes be related to influenza, though this is not typical. If someone has only stomach or intestinal symptoms, it is likely not caused by the influenza virus.
Is it safe to get the flu shot if I’m pregnant?
Yes. Vaccinating pregnant women helps protect the mother and baby from flu infection. In the case of the baby, the protection lasts for several months after birth during a time when the infant is too young to be vaccinated.
The Bottom Line
Getting the flu shot is simply good common sense. Not only will it help keep you from getting sick with the flu and avoiding a hospitalization or serious medical event associated with conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, but it can also help you avoid the cost of lost wages and healthcare costs resulting from getting sick.
With the added risks of the coronavirus to consider, this is definitely not the year to skip getting vaccinated.