The flu shot works (and other things to know about it)

By The Health News Team | December 13, 2022
Woman getting vaccinated

The media calls it a “tripledemic,” and hospitals across the county call it a reality. The combination of a surge in cases of flu, RSV and COVID-19 is affecting nearly every population. And busy medical offices, urgent care centers and emergency rooms are seeing illnesses ranging from mild to severe.

When it comes to the flu alone, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports seasonal activity is high and continues to increase in the United States. In fact, it is estimated that there have been at least 8.7 million illnesses, 78,000 hospitalizations and 4,500 deaths from flu so far this season.

However, there are ways to prevent the spread of the flu, and vaccination is the first line of attack. According to the CDC, this year’s flu shot is about 50% effective at preventing hospitalization from the most common circulating influenza (flu) strain.

Here’s what else you should know about the flu shot:

Everyone age 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine (with rare exceptions).
This is especially true for people at high risk of serious complications from flu, such as adults 65 and over, those with chronic health conditions, very young children and pregnant women. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns about receiving an annual flu shot, had a severe allergic reaction to the flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine, have ever had Guillain-Barré syndrome, or are not feeling well prior to receiving the flu shot.

You cannot get the flu from any form of the flu vaccine.
The flu vaccine exposes you to an inactivated or weakened form of the flu virus. This exposure can stimulate an immune response that provides protection from the flu without causing illness. However, while the vaccine will not cause the flu, it can cause mild flu-like symptoms for a few days or less.

The flu shot helps protect you from severe illness, hospitalization and death.
The vaccine can help protect you from flu illness or reduce the severity of illness in those who are vaccinated but still get infected. The CDC reports that the flu vaccine reduced children’s risk of flu-related ICU admission by up to 74%, reduced adults’ risk of being admitted to an ICU by 82%, and can be lifesaving for many.

The annual flu shot is targeted at flu strains expected to be in circulation.
Experts look to the Southern Hemisphere as a predictor of what to expect in the Northern Hemisphere, including the United States. The same viruses that cause illness there will likely cause cases of flu here. Therefore, every year, the flu vaccine is reformulated and standardized by the U.S. Public Health Service to include influenza strains that are predicted to circulate through the community during the upcoming season.

It’s not too late to get your flu shot.
While data show September and October are the sweet spot for getting vaccinated, it’s very important to get the flu vaccine now if you haven’t already. You can even receive a flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine or booster at the same time, though experts recommend receiving the shots in different arms.

Additional tactics can help you avoid the flu and other respiratory illness.
Along with getting vaccinated, avoiding large indoor crowds and people who are sick; washing your hands often; avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth; and wearing a face mask in crowded indoor locations with poor ventilation can help you avoid getting sick. Other good health habits can also help: Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.

Learn more about where to get flu shots and COVID-19 vaccines and boosters in San Diego.

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