Do You Really Need A Flu Shot This Year?

1674

With cases of COVID-19 continuing to make daily headlines, concerns about flu season may be overshadowed. In fact, with the physical distancing, mask-wearing and extra hand washing (or hand sanitizing when washing isn't available), many people may be wondering if the flu shot is necessary this year. The answer, says Berta Rezik, M.D., a family medicine specialist at Henry Ford Health System, is yes!

"Getting a flu shot is especially important this year," Dr. Rezik says. "The flu vaccine is a safe and cost-effective way to prevent the flu, and if you do contract it, to have a less severe illness."

Schedule a flu shot today.

Flu Shot Basics

The flu (influenza) is a serious disease that can lead to illness or even premature death. Last year alone, an estimated 39 to 56 million Americans came down with the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For the average American, a flu shot offers the best defense against the flu virus. "The vaccine is a great tool we have at our disposal to combat a viral illness," Dr. Rezik says. Yet, the CDC says that fewer than half of American adults follow through with the flu shot each season.

One reason: People are afraid the flu vaccine can cause the flu. The reality is, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Scientists design the flu vaccine to protect against the four most anticipated flu strains for the upcoming season. After vaccination, the body builds up antibodies to protect against those strains.

There are currently three types of flu vaccinations available. Your doctor will select the option that's best for you based on your age and risk category:

  • Inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV): The IIV does not contain any live flu virus. It's approved for use among people over 6 months of age.
  • Recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV): RIVs are synthetic vaccines made of DNA that triggers cells to make antibodies against the flu and a type of virus that carries the DNA into the body. Recombinant vaccines do not use chicken eggs in the production process. They're approved for individuals over the age of 18.
  • Live attenuated nasal spray influenza vaccine (LAIV4): The nasal spray flu vaccine is approved for use in healthy people who are not pregnant. It's designed for ages 2 through 49, but it contains the live virus, so it’s not appropriate for people with certain medical conditions.

"You can expect a low-grade fever, malaise and muscle soreness at the injection site," says Dr. Rezik. “But the flu shot will not cause the flu.” That said, it's possible to get infected with a strain of the virus that isn't covered by that year's vaccine.

Who Needs A Flu Shot?

For the best protection — and to prevent the spread of the flu to immune compromised groups — almost everyone should get a flu shot. The only groups who should NOT get a flu shot:

  • Children younger than 6 months of age
  • People who have had a severe or life-threatening reaction to the flu vaccine

There are other groups who should talk to their doctors before getting a flu shot, including:

  • People who have a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome (an illness characterized by paralysis)
  • People who have allergies to the ingredients in the flu vaccine
  • People who have an active and serious illness that compromises the immune system

Concerned about visiting your healthcare provider to get a flu shot during the pandemic? You're not alone. Many people have concerns about leaving their homes to get vaccinated. However, it may be reassuring to know that doctors' offices are taking every precaution to ensure safety, including appointment-only visits, mask requirements and sanitizing between patients.

"Primary care is typically the leader of flu vaccination. But if you find yourself at your dermatologist or orthopedist, ask them if they have the flu shot available since you are already at the office," suggests Dr. Rezik. "Many specialties have expanded access."

Want more health and wellness advice?
Subscribe to our newsletter to get all the latest tips.

To ensure social distancing at our facilities, Henry Ford is not offering walk-in flu shots this year. To make a flu shot appointment online and learn more, visit henryford.com/flu

To find a doctor at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

Dr. Berta Rezik is a family medicine physician who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center - Woodhaven.

Categories: FeelWell