Each year we hear from our healthcare providers, pharmacies, and the CDC that it’s time to get a flu vaccine. Because COVID-19 may mimic some of the symptoms of flu, being vaccinated lessens the threat of getting either virus. Don’t wait for flu to get a strong hold in your community before you consider a vaccine. The flu can be deadly, especially to young children, the elderly and also those with compromised immune systems.
The Flu is a highly contagious respiratory illness – caused by influenza viruses that affect the throat, nose, and sometimes the lungs. Depending on the severity, it can range from mild to severe or potentially life-threatening. (NCIRD 2021)
Winter is when the flu becomes more prevalent. People stay indoors because of inclement weather and we know from COVID how a virus spreads in close quarters. The annual influenza-related disease has increased from approximately 9 million to 45 million illnesses and 12,000 to 61,000 deaths in the last ten years. (Immunization Action Coalition 2021)
Out of the four different types of influenza viruses – A, B, C, and D, the two types that typically affect people the most are A and B.
Every year, the influenza vaccine is available to help protect people from coming down with flu. There are often a lot of questions surrounding the safety of vaccines amid the pandemic. It’s vital to take flu vaccine timely. The flu vaccine has helped reduce the risk of going to the doctor with flu by 40 percent to 60 percent during seasonal outbreaks. (NCIRD 2021)
National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW)
National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) is held between December 6-12 to raise nationwide awareness on the importance of influenza vaccination. This year, the message is even more critical as the virus causing COVID-19 can also spike in this winter season.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has released updated recommendations on using influenza vaccines for the 2021-22 influenza season. The recommendations contain six primary updates helpful for family physicians and other health care professionals. It also includes comprehensive guidance on the usage of vaccines in specific populations and situations. (AAFP 2021)
Symptoms of Flu
According to the CDC, flu viruses can infect people from up to 6 feet away. Say a person with the flu coughs or sneezes nearby; droplets can quickly transfer to another person’s mouth or nose, causing the illness.
While the symptoms could differ from person to person, some common symptoms include fever, headache, nose block, sore throat, body pain, fatigue, cough, vomiting, or diarrhea.
The severe symptoms are excessive weakness, chest pain, high fever, dizziness, loss of consciousness, chest pain, and seizures. (Johnson 2020)
These symptoms usually develop two days after the illness starts, so the person has likely passed on the flu to a few more people.
How Do Flu Vaccines Work?
Seasonal flu vaccines help create antibodies in our bodies in about two weeks of taking the vaccination shot. These antibodies can protect people from catching any infection from influenza viruses.
All flu vaccines available nationwide are “quadrivalent” vaccines. It means they can shield you against four different flu viruses: an influenza A(H1N1) virus, an influenza A(H3N2) virus, and two influenza B viruses. (NCIRD 2021)
How Safe is the Flu Vaccine?
The whole objective of creating vaccination is to protect people from illnesses. Flu vaccination is essential for people prone to developing severe flu complications or those who have pre-existing chronic health conditions like diabetes, asthma, and heart diseases.
However, some people are advised against taking flu vaccination that includes:
- Infants under six months of age
- People who are allergic or have a severe reaction to the vaccine or any of its composition
- People with egg or mercury allergies
- People down with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)
Medical and healthcare experts advise that anyone who is offered a flu vaccination should take it. If preventive measures are not taken seriously during the peak season, a significant flu outbreak can be challenging to control amid the pandemic.
One can get the flu vaccine from their doctors, a health department, pharmacy, urgent care clinic, or college health center. A lot of times, workplaces and schools run a vaccination drive to get as many people vaccinated.
But remember, vaccination is a preventive measure to safeguard yourself from virus infection. In some cases, you can still come down with flu despite taking the vaccine. In that case, consult your doctor as soon as possible.
Be ready for this year’s flu season and keep your family safe by following flu and COVID-19 known safety measures.
NCIRD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Key Facts about Influenza (Flu).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 Aug. 2021, www.cdc.gov/flu/about/keyfacts.htm.
Immunization Action Coallition , IAC. “Ask The Experts: Influenza.” Ask the Experts: Influenza Vaccines, 16 Sept. 2021, www.immunize.org/askexperts/experts_inf.asp.
NCIRD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “What Are the Benefits of Flu Vaccination?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 Aug. 2021, www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccine-benefits.htm.
AAFP, American Academy of Family Physicians. “New Influenza Vaccine Recommendations for 2021-2022 Season.” AAFP Home, 16 Sept. 2021, www.aafp.org/news/health-of-the-public/20210916acipflu.html.
Johnson, Shannon. “Influenza A vs. B: Differences, Symptoms, Treatment, and More.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 10 Jan. 2020, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327397#symptoms.
NCIRD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Key Facts about Seasonal Flu Vaccine.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 Oct. 2021, www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/keyfacts.htm.
Seladi-Schulman, Jill. “What Are the Pros and Cons of the Flu Shot?” Healthline, Healthline Media, 2 Sept. 2020, www.healthline.com/health/flu-shot-pros-and-cons#safety.