It’s the end of August-the weather is cooling down, the kids are headed back to (virtual) school and pumpkin spice is available once again. Flu season is also just around the corner and this year it’s more important than ever that everyone get a flu vaccine as soon as possible—ideally by the end of October.
Why is it important to get a flu vaccine?
There are lots of great reasons to get a flu vaccine: namely, that it prevents you from getting the seasonal flu, an uncomfortable and potentially deadly illness. Some facts:
- During the 2016-2017 flu season, vaccinations prevented an estimated 5.3 million illnesses, 2.6 million medical visits and 85,000 flu-associated hospitalizations.
- Vaccination for people with chronic health conditions can help lessen the severity of the illness and prevent hospitalization or other negative health outcomes.
- Vaccinating pregnant persons has been shown to not only protect the individual from the flu, but to protect the baby from flu infection for several months after birth before the baby can be vaccinated themselves at age 6 months.
Additionally, COVID-19 (a respiratory illness with some symptoms in common with the flu) is still very present in our communities. Vaccination can prevent confusion on illnesses and reduce strain on already overburdened healthcare systems. Getting vaccinated for the flu will help keep testing, hospital beds and medical care available for COVID-19 patients who will need it the most.
I got one last year, do I need to get one again?
Yes. The seasonal flu virus mutates quickly. The virus is constantly changing, so flu vaccines are specially manufactured each year to best match/protect you from the current common viral strains of flu. Further, protection from a flu vaccine declines over time so yearly vaccination is needed for protection.
Can I get the flu from a vaccine?
No. Flu shots are made using either a dead version of the flu virus (called inactivated vaccines) or without virus at all (recombinant vaccines). Some minor side effects are relatively common like soreness, redness and/or swelling at the injection site, low grade fever and some muscle aches. You can talk to your medical provider or pharmacist about side effects and what to expect or watch out for in yourself and any kids you’re taking to get vaccinated.
Are flu vaccines safe?
Yes. Flu vaccines have an excellent safety record. Hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu vaccines over the past 50 years and extensive research supports the safety of seasonal flu vaccines. More information on the safety of flu vaccines is available at: www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/vaccinesafety.htm.
Where can I get vaccinated?
Vaccination will be available through your primary care provider, health clinics and many pharmacies. You can also search for vaccines through Vaccinefinder.org.
When will COVID-19 vaccines be available?
We honestly don’t know. Testing is still being conducted to ensure the effectiveness and safety of a variety of potential COVID-19 vaccines. Public Health is working now in planning efforts with our vaccine partners so we will be ready when COVID-19 vaccines become available in Washington State. Be aware that the initial vaccine supplies will be limited and so will be targeted for the people at highest risk. As soon as we have more information, we’ll let you know.