Dorsey College trains the healthcare professionals of tomorrow. Therefore, we believe it is important to spread knowledge about pertinent health-related topics. Today, we are sharing information about the flu vaccination.
Since the pandemic we haven’t heard very much about influenza aka the flu. The Covid-19 vaccination might flood the headlines right now, but flu shots are still important and necessary. They are also timely as well since the 2021-2022 flu season is right around the corner.
Every flu season there have been campaigns about the importance of getting a flu vaccine. Pharmacies and grocery stores put signs in windows offering free, walk up flu vaccines. Like all viruses, the flu is contagious, and the way to stop the spread is by vaccination. If you’re looking to do some light reading on the flu vaccine you’ve come to the right place. Here are 5 frequently asked flu shot questions and their answers.
Note: The information presented here is meant for informational purposes only and should not serve as a replacement for medical advice. If you have questions regarding your own health, consult with your healthcare provider.
When is flu season?
Flu season typically begins in October, peaks in the winter, usually in February and can be active into May. ¹ The flu is active year-round, it’s just especially prominent in the fall and winter months. The U.S government collects data about the flu every flu season. You can find weekly statistics on flu activity in the United States on FluView.
The level of flu activity varies from place to place and throughout the seasons. The severity and impact of the flu similarly varies from year, place, and season. That means your safest bet is to get a flu shot each year before flu season ramps up.
1. Is the flu contagious?
As mentioned earlier in the article the flu is contagious. The flu is spread similar to how Covid-19 is spread: person to person. Droplets that land on people when we sneeze, cough or even talk are the most common way the flu spreads. Surfaces can also have infected droplets on them. If you touch an infected surface and then touch your face you can also get the flu.
You can have the flu and spread it before you start feeling ill. Flu symptoms usually begin by 2 days after exposure but sometimes it can take up to 4 days for symptoms to show. As you can imagine, you can spread a lot of flu in 1-4 days.
You continue being contagious while you're sick with the flu. You can still spread the flu up to 7 days after becoming sick.²
2. How many people get the flu each year?
On average about 8% of the population gets the flu each year. Some years that percentage is 11% and sometimes it’s as low as 3%. The amount of people who get the flu varies from strain and season.
Certain ages are more likely to catch the flu. Children and teenagers are most likely to get the flu while adults over 65 are the least likely to get the flu. ³
3. When to get the flu shot?
Between September and October is considered the best time to get the flu shot. People over 65 shouldn’t get the shot before September as protection for that age group can decrease over time. Some children may need a second dose 4 weeks after their first dose, so it’s recommended they get their vaccines as early as possible. Pregnant women in their third trimester can also get the flu shot early as it can help protect their unborn infant. Children under 6 months old cannot receive the flu shot.⁴
You can get your flu shot any time after the year’s flu vaccine comes out. But note that it is better to get the shot before flu season comes to full swing. Why? Because after you receive your flu shot it takes up to two weeks for the antibodies that fight the flu to build up in your body. You won’t want to be unprotected against the flu for a two-week span in the height of flu season.
4. How long does the flu shot last?
A flu shot should last for the flu season you are vaccinated during. There are two main reasons why you should get a flu shot every year. The first reason is that over time your immune protection from the virus declines. The second reason is that flu viruses are constantly changing and evolving. The flu vaccination follows the patterns of flu viruses. Each vaccine is designed for the flu strain of a specific season, so you need a new vaccine each new flu season. ⁵
Because the flu virus mutates every season the effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies from season to season. Some years the vaccine and strain match better than others.
While the flu vaccine is the best tool we have to fight the flu, it isn’t perfect. No vaccine is 100% effective meaning there is a chance you could get the flu shot and still get the flu. However, the those who get the flu after getting the flu shot reduce their risk of getting complications from the flu. According to a 2021 study, if you get the flu after being vaccinated, you have a 26% lower risk of being admitted to the ICU, and a 31% lower risk of dying from the flu, compared to those who did not receive a flu shot.6
Getting your flu shot is a simple way to protect your health by minimizing your likelihood of getting a dangerous case of the flu. By getting your flu shot you can also help protect your community from flu outbreaks. Even in 2021 with the Covid-19 pandemic taking the front seat, the flu shot is still important. Let’s do what we can to make this year's flu season as mild as possible.
- “The Flu Season.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 May 2021, www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season.htm.
- “How Flu Spreads.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27 Aug. 2018, www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/spread.htm.
- “Key Facts about Influenza (Flu).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 Aug. 2021, www.cdc.gov/flu/about/keyfacts.htm.
- “Frequently Asked Influenza (Flu) Questions: 2021-2022 Season.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 Aug. 2021, www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2021-2022.htm?web=1&wdLOR=cBAA7D26E-F661-4B51-89CD-A3C9953E2A22#coadmin.
- “Key Facts about Seasonal Flu Vaccine.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 Aug. 2021, www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/keyfacts.htm.