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It's flu season. We are currently seeing a surge in the viruses that cause flu and other respiratory illnesses, especially RSV. Locally and nationally, hospitals and clinics are feeling a remarkable strain.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older get a flu shot and keep up to date with the appropriate COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters for their age group.
Getting a flu shot is easy. You can schedule one with your provider, at a local pharmacy and at many other locations.
Currently, flu activity is increasing in the United States. Other respiratory viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are also surging, affecting millions of patients and families across the country and having major impacts on hospitals and clinics nationally. The viruses are putting remarkable strain on local facilities, particularly in the area of pediatric care; emergency departments and pediatric critical care units are at capacity.
"This week is an excellent reminder that there is still time to get your vaccine and to make sure your loved ones are also protected by getting their flu shot and their COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters," says Evan Sylvester, director of infection prevention at Swedish. "We recommend prompt vaccination against influenza and COVID-19 for all patients 6 months and older who are not up to date."
Get the real facts about flu vaccines
Will the flu vaccine give me the flu?
The flu shot is made with inactivated viruses, which means you can’t get the flu from the shot. However, it can trigger an immune response from your body, which may cause you to experience mild, flu-like symptoms like soreness or a low-grade fever. The most common reaction to the flu vaccine is soreness or redness around the area where the shot was given.
But why did I get sick after I got the flu shot?
Even if you got a flu vaccine, there are many reasons why you might still get flu or a flu-like illness.
- You may have been exposed to a non-flu virus before or after you got vaccinated. The flu vaccine can only prevent illnesses caused by flu viruses. It cannot protect against non-flu viruses that may cause flu-like illness.
- You might have been exposed to flu after you got vaccinated but before the vaccine took effect. It takes about two weeks after you receive the vaccine for your body to build protection against the flu.
- You may have been exposed to an influenza virus that was very different from the viruses included in that year’s vaccine. The flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will cause the most disease during the upcoming season, but there can be other flu viruses circulating.
- The Flu vaccine does not provide the same protection for everyone. Variables including age, medications and flu type prevalence changes the vaccine efficacy.
Where can I get a flu shot?
Getting a flu shot is easy and available at many locations. You can schedule your flu shot with your local Walgreens or other retail pharmacy or receive the vaccine at your provider's office.
Do I need the flu shot every year?
Yes. A person’s immune protection from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccination is needed to get the best protection against the flu. Also, the virus changes its makeup every season, so a new shot is needed every year to protect against the new virus.
Should I wait to get my flu shot so that my immunity lasts through the end of the season?
The CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommend the flu vaccinations begin soon after the vaccine becomes available, if possible, by October. Caregivers are required to get their flu shot or complete an online declination by Oct. 31.
I’m pretty healthy. Why do still need to get the flu shot?
Healthy people can still carry the virus and may inadvertently pass it on to those vulnerable population groups we serve without experiencing symptoms. Even though rates of serious illness are highest among people 65 years of age and older, children under 2 years of age, and those with an underlying chronic medical condition, the healthiest of people need to receive the flu vaccine to lower the chances of passing it to others.
Will the flu shot help fight the coronavirus?
The flu shot won’t protect you from developing COVID-19, but it can help us respond better to the COVID-19 outbreak. Fewer cases of the flu mean more resources available to fight COVID-19.
Is it possible to have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time?
It is possible to test positive for flu (as well as other respiratory pathogens) and the virus that causes COVID-19 at the same time.
Will the flu vaccine affect COVID-19 test results?
Getting a flu shot does not affect your COVID-19 test result. COVID-19 and seasonal influenza are different diseases. COVID-19 is caused by a novel coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. The flu is caused by influenza viruses. Whether you are tested for a current COVID-19 infection or to see if you previously had COVID-19, having had a flu shot in the past will not cause a false positive test result for either test.
"The health and of the entire Swedish community is our top priority," says Evan Sylvester. "We can't stress enough the importance of vaccinations and boosters; at the same time, we also need to practice good hand hygiene, stay home when sick and wear well-fitting masks when around sick people or in public. These are the things we can all do to help keep ourselves and our loved ones healthy."