Now is the time to get your flu vaccine

GEHA | October 4, 2021

Health And Wellness Everyday Health Well-Being
A flu vaccine can reduce your risk of getting the flu and its complications.

Getting a flu shot often protects you from coming down with the flu. Although the flu shot doesn't always provide total protection, it's worth getting.

Influenza is a respiratory infection that can cause serious complications, particularly in young children, older adults and people with certain medical conditions. Getting a flu shot — though not 100% effective — is the best way to prevent the flu and its complications.

Flu viruses evolve quickly, so last year's vaccine may not protect you from this year's viruses. New flu vaccines are released every year. It takes up to two weeks to build immunity after a flu shot, but you can benefit from the vaccine even if you don't get it until after the flu season starts. It's usually best to get the flu vaccine in September and October. You can still protect yourself against late flu outbreaks if you get the vaccine in February or later.

The flu vaccination is recommended for everyone age 6 months or older. Vaccination is especially important for people at high risk of influenza complications, including:

  • Pregnant women
  • Older adults
  • Young children
  • Anyone with a chronic medical condition
  • People living in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities
  • Travelers

The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. It also does not increase your risk of COVID-19. You might develop flu-like symptoms –despite getting the vaccine –because of a reaction to the vaccine, you’re exposed to the influenza virus before the two-week window is reached or you have another illness, such as the common cold.

Some side effects mimic cold or flu symptoms:

  • Soreness or swelling where you got the shot
  • Aching
  • Nausea
  • light fever

Both COVID-19 and the flu are spreading at the same time. Your local health department and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) may suggest additional precautions to reduce your risk of COVID-19 or the flu, such as practicing social distancing and keeping six feet away from anyone outside your household. You also may need to wear a cloth face mask when in public, especially when it's hard to maintain distance.

Getting your flu vaccine can reduce your risk of the flu and its complications. You can also lower your risk by taking these additional steps:

  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water or use hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue or your elbow when you cough or sneeze, then wash your hands
  • Regularly clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces
  • Stay healthy by getting regular exercise and enough sleep, drinking fluids, eating a healthy diet and managing your stress
Sources:
“Flu shot: Your best bet for avoiding influenza.” mayoclinic.org, Mayo Clinic, 13 November, 2020.
“The flu vaccine: Get the facts” webmd.com, WebMD, LLC, 13 October 2019.