Getting The Flu Vaccine Is More Important Than Ever This Year

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Last year, we had a very mild flu season. Experts think this was because of strict social distancing and masking guidelines. “All of these protocols we had in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19 really reduced the spread of the flu,” says Lucienne Zenieh, M.D., an internal medicine physician with Henry Ford Health System. “But because of this, we weren’t exposed to the flu last year, so it’s likely that we now have reduced immunity against it.”

Getting your flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccine (or your booster shot) will help protect you from contracting a serious illness this winter. If you're not vaccinated and you contract both viruses around the same time--or at the same time, which some are dubbing as flurona--it could take a huge toll on your health.

“Both the flu and COVID-19 are respiratory viruses, meaning they both affect the lungs,” says Dr. Zenieh. “Getting both of these infections is dangerous because it could overwhelm your lungs and your whole immune system. Symptoms could be severe, and probably leading to hospitalization and even death.” 

Protecting Kids From Viral Infections

 Along with the flu, cases of RSV—a viral infection that affects kids; especially small children and babies—were minimal last year, thanks to masking and social distancing. But this year, cases of RSV began to rise in August, instead of the usual fall to spring season.

“RSV came early this year because most of the population didn’t get exposed to it last year, so we saw an early surge,” says Dr. Zenieh. “And the COVID-19 variants--Omicron and Delta--are affecting kids, so now kids (especially those younger than 5 who can’t yet receive the COVID-19 vaccine) are facing the flu, COVID-19 and RSV. These are three respiratory viruses that can overwhelm the lungs and immune system, and kids are going to school in person, getting more exposure. It’s a high-risk situation. Protecting them with the flu vaccine is so important.”

What To Know Before Getting The Flu Vaccine

“No vaccine is 100% effective, but even if you do get the flu, the vaccine will prevent you from having severe symptoms,” says Dr. Zenieh. “You might have symptoms like congestion or even a fever, but it will lower your risk for having serious complications.” 

Here, a few tips to getting the flu vaccine:

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you can get the flu vaccine at the same time as your COVID-19 vaccine. You won’t have worsened side effects, there won’t be any interaction between the two vaccines, and it won’t affect your immune protection.
  • Do you have an egg allergy? According to the CDC, if your egg allergy is mild, you can still get the flu vaccine. (The flu vaccine contains a small amount of egg protein.) You can also ask your doctor about receiving Flucelvax, an alternative flu vaccine that does not contain egg. Learn more about the CDC’s recommendations for those with egg allergies here.
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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 1-800-436-7936.

Dr. Lucienne Zenieh is an internal medicine physician with Henry Ford Health System. She sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center in Bloomfield Township.

Categories: FeelWell

Tags: Flu, Primary Care