Should You Really Get a Flu Shot?
While the global health emergency of COVID-19 has officially ended, the flu season will begin around October as usual. If you’ve received vaccinations and booster shots during the pandemic, you might be a bit tired of them. But do you really need a flu shot?
„I think we’re all tired of vaccinations and injections,“ says Patricia Stinchfield, RN, MS, CPNP, a pediatric nurse in St. Paul, MN, specializing in vaccinations and infection prevention and control. She is also the President of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. However, the COVID-19 vaccine does not protect you from the flu. „That’s wishful thinking, but it’s not true,“ she says. Both flu and COVID-19 are contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses.
Despite this, everyone should still get a flu shot every year to stay healthy.
Who Needs the Shot?
The answer is „everyone,“ but for some individuals, it is crucial.
People over 65: Individuals in this age group are at the highest risk of needing hospitalization or dying from the flu. „As we age, our immune response to vaccines doesn’t work as well,“ says Stinchfield. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recently decided to recommend higher-dose vaccines or vaccines with adjuvants – ingredients in the vaccine that enhance immunity – for older people. Another contribution to protecting this age group is to ensure that people of all races and ethnicities can get vaccinated.
Who Shouldn’t Get the Flu Shot?
People who should not get the flu shot include:
- Children under 6 months old.
- Individuals who are severely allergic to an ingredient in the vaccine, such as antibiotics, gelatin, etc.
- Anyone who had a severe allergic reaction to the flu shot in the past.
Doesn’t the Vaccine Give You the Flu?
No, this is still a misconception. The flu shot does not make you sick in order to protect you from it. When you get vaccinated, it contains dead flu viruses that cannot infect you, or proteins of a flu virus.
The nasal spray form contains live viruses, but they are weakened so they cannot replicate in your warm body.
Flu Season Protocol
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us a lot about staying healthy. „Some of these principles also apply to influenza,“ says Stinchfield. Her advice:
- Get vaccinated.
- Stay home when you’re sick.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes.
- Wash your hands.
„We say them over and over again because they work,“ she says.