It’s October and time for my annual reminder for everyone age 6 months and older to get a flu shot!
Flu season typically runs from November to March, but no one can predict with accuracy exactly when the first cases will start showing up or when the season will end—sometimes as early as October to as late as May. It’s unpredictable as well how severe the upcoming flu season will be, so just assume it will be a bad and early flu season and prepare accordingly.
In other words, get your flu shot now. And remember to always wash your hands.
Flu shots are readily available
No shortage of flu vaccine is predicted for this year. For more information about all things flu, check out the CDC’s webpage, What You Should Know for the 2015-2016 Influenza Season.
You can go to your doctor’s office, but call first and see if they even have flu shots on hand. Not all offices keep them in stock.
I like to use my grocery store pharmacist. Pharmacists are trained to administer shots. It’s conveniently located, they bill my insurance company, and I get a 10% coupon towards my grocery shopping!
If you’re not sure where to find the flu vaccine in your area, check out this Vaccine Finder tool.
The flu shot is low (or no) cost
Obamacare mandates that most vaccinations, including seasonal flu, be covered with no cost sharing. That is, you do not need to pay a co-pay or have the cost applied to your deductible.
If you do not have insurance, call local drugstore chains to find the lowest price. Or, contact your local public health department. They provide vaccinations free of charge to those who qualify.
Most shots cost less than $40. The cost of getting the flu, including a doctor or ER visit and medication, and time lost from work, can be much higher.
The flu shot is (mostly) effective
A typical flu shot protects against several strains of flu. Last year’s vaccine was remarkable in that it “missed”—it didn’t provide protection against the season’s most commonly seen flu strain.
The manufacturing of the flu vaccine necessarily takes place well before flu season. The makers of the vaccine do their best to predict which strains of flu will be most prevalent, but nature is fickle and sometimes they get part of it wrong.
Even if the flu shot is not a perfect match, it still provides some protection against related strains. A little protection is better than none, I think.
The flu shot takes about 2 weeks to reach peak effectiveness, which is another reason to get it early in the season.
The flu shot is safe
Safety of vaccines is always a concern, but the flu vaccine has proven to be safe over the years. Risk must always be weighed against benefit, and the extremely small risk of having a complication related to the vaccine is far outweighed by the benefit of avoiding a serious respiratory infection.
The nurse or pharmacist will have you fill out a standard questionnaire about your current and general health and if you have any drug or egg allergies (flu vaccine manufacture involves eggs). They will answer your questions, and will let you know if there is a concern about the flu shot that you need to discuss with your primary care provider.
For more information about flu shots for infants and children, read this blog post by Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, a Seattle-area pediatrician.
I know not everyone will feel strongly that they need to be vaccinated. But school children, college students and anyone who lives or works with a large number of people (greater risk of catching the flu virus) should seriously consider getting the flu shot, as well as anyone who cannot afford sick time away from work.
Or who wants to protect those around them.
Or, like me, who just doesn’t want to get sick. I’ve only had flu once in my life, and I remember how really, really sick I felt.
Stay healthy, save money!