While America’s attention is focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, another serious viral threat is right around the corner. Seasonal Influenza is on its way, whichcauses up to 45 million illnesses and 61,000 deaths in the US every year. A vaccine for COVID-19 does not yet exist, but there are a number of effective vaccines to protect you from the Seasonal Flu. As such, it is vitally important that everyone get vaccinated, not only to protect themselves but also to avoid exposing their friends and loved ones to this potentially deadly disease. It is especially important that those at risk of serious disease get vaccinated. This group includes children under two, those over 65, people with suppressed immune systems, and those with lung, heart, kidney or liver disease. Pregnant women and their unborn children are especially vulnerable to the flu virus and are highly encouraged to get vaccinated as well.
In light of the pandemic, it is vitally important that everyone get their seasonal flu shots as early as possible, not only to protect themselves but also to avoid exposing their friends and loved ones to this potentially deadly disease. It is especially important that those at risk of serious disease get vaccinated. This group includes children under two, those over 65, people with suppressed immune systems, and those with lung, heart, kidney or liver disease. Pregnant women and their unborn children are especially vulnerable to the flu virus and are highly encouraged to get vaccinated as well.
The flu shot will be widely available but demand is expected to be high this year, so don’t delay in getting vaccinated. You can get your shot at your doctor’s office, many pharmacies and places of business as well as other convenient locations. It takes two weeks before the flu shot is effective so it’s best to get vaccinated before the start of the flu season. Plan on getting the shot in mid-September to early October.
Those who should avoid getting vaccinated are children under 6 months of age, and individuals who have had a serious allergic reaction to the flu shot in the past or a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome.
There are six different flu vaccines available this year. The vast majority are quadrivalent which are preferred over the trivalent vaccines since they offer broader protection. However, if a quadrivalent vaccine is not available, the CDC recommends you don’t wait and get the trivalent.
Choose a vaccine based on your age, personal preference and availability:
- Standard-Dose Inactivated Vaccine - appropriate for everyone over the age of six months.
- High-Dose Inactivated Vaccine - approved for everyone over the age of 65. It offers increased protection needed for seniors whose immune function is not as strong as younger people.
- Adjuvanted Inactivated Influenza Vaccine - approved for seniors over the age of 65. It contains an adjuvant, which is an ingredient that boosts its protective properties.
- Live-Attenuated Influenza Vaccine - a nasal spray that is approved for people aged 2 to 49 years of age who dislike injections. Pregnant women and people with suppressed immune systems should avoid this vaccine.
- Recombinant Influenza Vaccine - made without eggs. It is recommended for those with egg allergies.
- Cell Culture Influenza Vaccine - another vaccine made without eggs.
In addition to getting the flu shot, you can reduce your risk of catching the flu by practicing the same safety measures helping to prevent COVID-19 exposure. These include washing your hands frequently, wearing a mask, and practicing social distancing.
It is important to remember that the seasonal flu shot does not prevent COVID-19. PVA members should reach out to their local VA or PVA National Service Officer for more information. The VA Community Care Flu Shot webpage includes helpful information on eligibility and availability.