Don’t let your guard down — roll up your sleeves for a flu shot
4 MINUTE READ
Concerns rise for a twindemic. Some facts to know about fighting off the flu and COVID-19.
It may sound surprising to say this, but last year we got lucky. Probably because people followed preventive health measures like masking, hand washing, staying home and social distancing, Americans enjoyed an incredibly mild flu season. But this year, we may not be as fortunate.
Health experts are concerned because we may be a little less careful as we enter this year’s flu season while COVID-19 continues to spread. We’ve learned that the Delta variant spreads faster than the original virus and previous variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. The worry is that our hospitals could become overwhelmed by patients with flu-like symptoms, and it may be confusing to distinguish flu from COVID-19 even when the symptoms are mild.
There are some bright spots: Vaccines for both COVID-19 and the flu are widely available. COVID-19 vaccinations are available for everyone 12 and over (people aged 12 through 18 can get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine) and flu shots for everyone over 6 months. There’s no cost to Horizon members for either vaccine. Flu and COVID-19 vaccinations can even be given at the same time.
Who needs to get a flu shot?
Everyone over the age of 6 months should get a flu shot, with rare exceptions. This is particularly true for essential workers, people with underlying conditions like asthma or heart disease and those at higher risk — including very young children and pregnant women.
You cannot get the flu from getting a flu shot. In fact, vaccines are extremely safe, with no adverse effects in most people. Some people may have mild symptoms like a sore arm or feel tired after getting the flu shot, but these usually go away within a few days.
If you are concerned about the safety of the flu vaccine due to special circumstances, talk to your doctor.
When should you get the flu shot?
Every year. Because the flu virus changes every season, the shot you got last year isn’t likely to protect you against the flu strains circulating this year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people get their flu shot in September or October. That’s because the flu season usually starts in mid- to late October, and it takes about two weeks for a person to achieve full immunity. But even if you miss this time frame, you should still get a shot since the flu season stretches into the spring.
How much does the flu shot cost?
In a word: nothing! The flu shot is covered at no cost to Horizon members.
Will the flu shot protect you from COVID-19?
Unfortunately, no. Although they are both caused by a respiratory virus, they are two separate diseases. However, many symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 are the same, including fever, chills, cough, sore throat, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue.
Why should you get a flu shot?
A flu shot can help prevent you and the people around you from catching and spreading the flu virus, which can make you feel miserable for a week or two. Even if you get the flu despite being vaccinated, the vaccine can lessen how severe and how long your illness could be.
For many people, the flu can have serious consequences, especially for people:
- 65 years and older
- With chronic health conditions, like asthma, heart disease and diabetes.
- With compromised immune systems due to disease or medicines
Healthy habits to protect against the flu
The single best way to reduce the risk of seasonal flu and its potentially serious complications is to get vaccinated each year. But good health habits can also help stop the spread of germs and prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses like flu. During flu season:
- Avoid people who are sick, don’t touch your face with your hands and wash your hands frequently. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Get plenty of rest, stay active, manage your stress, drink fluids and eat nutritious food.
Will there be enough flu vaccine for those who want it?
The likely answer is yes. Vaccine manufacturers have projected that they will supply the U.S. with as many as 188 million to 200 million doses of flu vaccine for the 2021-2022 flu season. To make sure you can get one, the best advice is to get your flu shot as soon as you can.
How effective is the flu shot?
This season, all flu vaccines are designed to protect against the four flu viruses that research indicates will be most common. The vaccines were manufactured during the spring and summer.
But strains can change over time, sometimes making the vaccine less effective. The U.S. flu vaccines are about 40 to 60 percent effective on average. According to the CDC, this means the vaccine reduces the chances by 40 to 60 percent that you would have symptoms severe enough to visit a doctor or hospital if you were exposed to the flu.
Is it safe to get both a Covid-10 vaccine/booster and a flu shot at the same time?
While limited data exist on giving COVID-19 vaccines with other vaccines, including flu vaccines, experience with giving other vaccines together has shown the way our bodies develop protection and possible side effects are generally similar whether vaccines are given alone or with other vaccines. The CDC advises you can get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines, including a flu vaccine, at the same visit.
If you have concerns about getting both vaccines at the same time, you should speak with a health care provider.
Where can I get a shot?
Horizon members are encouraged to get shots from their primary care doctors or retail pharmacies and clinics. Many providers have made it easier and safer to get a flu shot since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Horizon members can receive flu shots at a number of locations in addition to their doctor’s office. Check with an individual location about their procedures for administering flu shots this year.
Remember, the flu shot is covered at no cost to Horizon members. Make a plan today to get yours and help keep your family and community healthy this season.