Flu Season 2020-2021 Q & A

Flu Season 2020-2021 Q & A

WHO should get the flu shot?
Everyone 6 months old or older
. It is particularly important for children under the age of five, seniors 65 and older, pregnant women and individuals with chronic conditions such as diabetes and pulmonary, heart, kidney, liver, neurological or hematologic diseases.

WHY should I get a flu shot every year and especially this year?
Influenza (flu) is a potentially serious illness that can be fatal. The viruses that cause flu change, so each year’s vaccine is formulated against the flu strains expected that year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, flu shots are even more important than usual this year. Large numbers of people seriously ill with the flu this season at the same time COVID-19 may spike again will increase stress on our health care system.

WHEN should I get a flu shot?
Every fall in September or October.  If you wait too long, you might catch the flu while you are waiting to get your shot.  And while flu generally does not peak until January or February, it can start as early as October or November.

If I get a flu shot, can I be sure that I will not get the flu?
No, the flu vaccine is not 100% effective.

Then why bother?
Flu vaccines DO reduce your chance of getting the flu. They just do not reduce the risk to zero. If you do get the flu despite getting a flu shot, it will most likely be a milder case and you be less likely to suffer complications or die from it.

What are the types of flu shots?
TRIVALENT vaccines have protection against 3 strains of the flu (two influenza A viruses, one influenza B virus).  QUADRIVALENT vaccines offer protection against 4 strains (the same three found in the trivalent vaccines, plus a second influenza B virus).  Besides the STANDARD INACTIVATED (killed virus) vaccine, there are two vaccines that better protect people 65 and older.  There is also a live virus vaccine for healthy people ages 2-50.

Which type is right for me?
If you are 65 or older, the best option is one of the vaccines for that age group. If they are not available, however it would be better to get the standard vaccine ASAP rather than wait for the special one.

References
Immunization Action Coalition.  Ask the Experts:  Influenza. https://www.immunize.org/askexperts/experts_inf.asp  Accessed August 17, 2020
CDC.  Frequently Asked Influenza (Flu) Questions:  2020-2021.  https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2020-2021.html  Accessed August 17, 2020

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John Parker Jr., MD

Dr. Parker is a board-certified family medicine physician and a professor of family and community health at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.