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When is flu season? Flu season begins around October and can continue through May. This leaves quite a while for you or a loved one to run the risk of catching the flu. Getting vaccinated against the flu each year is the best way to protect yourself.
The flu vaccine:
– IS PROTECTIVE: The flu vaccine not only adds an additional layer of protection to individuals, but also to communities of people that get vaccinated.
– IS CONVENIENT: If you do not have an upcoming doctor’s appointment or an occupational health department, you can quickly drop by almost any local pharmacy for a flu shot.
– IS RELATIVELY PAINLESS: When done properly, the flu shot doesn’t hurt much. You may feel some soreness or stiffness in the days after receiving your vaccination.
– IS A MONEY SAVER: Most insurance plans cover the flu vaccination at no cost. Even without insurance, the flu shot is relatively inexpensive, especially in comparison to medications you may need if you or a loved one becomes ill with the flu.
The flu vaccine:
– IS NOT INSTANT: It takes about 2 weeks for the flu antibodies to build up in your body. Antibodies help your body recognize the flu virus if it enters your body and then help your body fight it off. Some people get the flu vaccine and think that if they get sick shortly after, it was the flu vaccine’s fault. But there is a chance that the person was already sick or became sick during the 2 weeks it takes for the body to be able to defend itself against the flu.
– IS NOT PROTECTIVE AGAINST ILLNESSES WITH FLU-LIKE SYMPTOMS: There are other viral respiratory conditions that have symptoms similar to the flu. The flu vaccine does not protect against these viruses.
– IS NOT A 100% GUARANTEE: Depending on which flu vaccine you receive, the vaccine only contains 3-4 potential flu virus strains. Since the vaccine only causes your body to produce antibodies to the strains included in the vaccine, your body may still be at risk for different flu virus strains that are not in the vaccine.
– IS NOT PROTECTIVE AGAINST STOMACH FLU: The stomach flu and influenza, the respiratory virus we call “the flu,” are not the same thing. The flu vaccine does not protect against stomach flu.
– IS NOT THE SAME EACH YEAR: Remember the strains we talked about? Well each year, scientists predict which strains are most likely to be the most common the following year, and those are the strains that are included in the flu vaccine. You need a flu vaccination every year since the components of the vaccine change yearly based on the scientists’ predictions.
– IS NOT MAGICAL: Vaccines don’t save lives; vaccinations do. The mere existence of the flu vaccine does not protect you. Getting the flu vaccine protects you.
– IS NOT RISK FREE: The flu vaccine, like any medication or vaccine, does have potential side effects. Most are mild and much less worse than getting the actual flu.
When to get vaccinated? The best time to get vaccinated is before the start of flu season, but it’s never too late. Even if flu season has already started, there’s still time for you to get vaccinated and protect yourself throughout the remainder of flu season.
Is there anyone who shouldn’t get vaccinated? There are several different types of flu vaccines. We will discuss these in Flu & U, Part Two. Different flu vaccines are more appropriate for different groups of people. Stay tuned for more information.