While most of us haven’t thought twice about the flu this summer, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have been working closely with epidemiologists around the world to predict which strains will hit the U.S. this flu season. They then work with drug companies to prepare the right kind of flu vaccines in time for you to get your vaccination. Here are four other things you should know before the flu season starts.
Who should get vaccinated? According to the CDC, everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season. This is especially important for those with a high risk of developing flu-related complications, like adults 65 and older, pregnant women, and those with certain diseases or chronic conditions.
When should you get vaccinated? It’s important to get vaccinated before flu activity picks up in your area. The CDC recommends everyone receive a vaccination no later than the end of October. Flu activity typically starts in mid-to-late fall, peaks mid-winter, and can continue as late as May.
What are the benefits of the flu vaccine? The flu vaccine can reduce your risk of catching the flu by 40-60%. It also lessens the severity of symptoms if you do get sick and significantly reduces your risk of serious complications from the flu. Studies have shown vaccination to reduce pediatric flu-related hospitalization by 74% and reduce adult flu-related intensive care hospitalization by 84%.
Is the flu vaccine safe? Hundreds of millions of flu vaccinations have been safely administered in the U.S. over the past 50 years and extensive research supports the safety of flu vaccines. You cannot catch the flu from a vaccine because they contain either an inactivated virus or a particle that looks like the flu to your immune system. Some mild side effects are possible, but go away on their own within a few days. Studies have shown a possible small association between the injectable flu vaccine and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), with an estimated 1 or 2 cases per one million people vaccinated. Though also rare, GBS actually occurs more commonly following flu illness than following flu vaccination.
Flu vaccines will start arriving in pharmacies and doctors’ offices in late August, so make plans to protect yourself and your family against the flu. Talk to your doctor or visit www.cdc.gov/flu if you have any questions or concerns about flu vaccination. Health Trust Physicians Clinic offers existing patients walk-in flu shots without an appointment.