As flu season approaches during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may find yourself with questions about the flu vaccine. Here, we pare down all the information into the 5 W’s — the who, what, where, when and why of the flu shot — and why it’s more important this year than ever before.
1. WHO should get the flu shot?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 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.
2. WHAT is the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccine exposes you to an inactivated or weakened form of the influenza (flu) virus, causing antibodies to develop in your body. These antibodies provide protection against infection. There are different flu vaccines for different populations, including specific flu shots approved for very young children, older adults, pregnant women and people with certain chronic health conditions. The nasal spray flu vaccine is for healthy, non-pregnant people ages 2 to 49. It’s important to know that you cannot get the flu from any form of the flu vaccine.
3. WHERE can I get the flu vaccine?
In San Diego, there are many options for where to get vaccinated:
- Learn about flu vaccines for Sharp Rees-Stealy patients and Sharp Community Medical Group patients.
- In Coronado, Sharp Coronado Community Pharmacy is offering flu shots, including the high-dose flu shot for those age 65 and older, Monday through Friday, 10 am to 4 pm. Sharp Coronado Hospital will offer free flu shots outside the Sandermann Education Center entrance on Soledad Place Friday, Oct. 9, 11 am to 4 pm. (High-dose flu vaccines will not be available at these events.)
- MinuteClinics, located in CVS stores, offer flu vaccinations daily; see individual location information for times.
- You can also call 2-1-1 San Diego or visit the San Diego Immunization Program website for flu clinic information.
4. WHEN should I get my flu vaccine?
According to the CDC, it is important to get vaccinated against the flu before the flu starts spreading in the fall. It is recommended you receive the vaccine before the end of October. However, it generally takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in your body, so you want to be sure to get your flu vaccine as soon as possible.
5. WHY should I get a flu shot?
There are several reasons to get a flu shot, especially this year during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are a few:
- The flu vaccine will protect you from flu illness or reduce the severity of illness in those who are vaccinated but still get sick. In fact, recent studies show that the flu vaccine reduces the risk of flu illness up to 60%.
- Vaccination prevents flu-related hospitalizations and deaths. The CDC reports that the flu vaccine reduced children’s risk of flu-related ICU admission by 74%; reduced adults’ risk of being admitted to an ICU by 82%; and can be life-saving for many.
- Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of developing serious complications in people with chronic conditions, such as lung disease and heart disease.
- A flu vaccine given to a woman who is pregnant protects her and also helps protect the baby from flu for several months after birth.
- Getting vaccinated can reduce visits to the doctor and keep you from missing work or school because you are sick with the flu.
- The more people who get vaccinated, the more others are also protected, especially those at higher risk for serious flu illness or those unable to receive the flu vaccine.
- Getting a flu vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic can help avoid overwhelming the health care system. It also decreases the chance of dual infection with flu and COVID-19, both highly contagious illnesses that affect the respiratory system.