Every year the flu vaccine gets tweaked. This year’s shot protects against four different variations of the flu virus.
Some people have been holding off on getting a shot over worries that the side effects are worse than in previous years. But there is no evidence of that. Last year the U.S. had a mild flu season because of mask mandates, businesses being closed and social distancing rules. This year it’s likely to be closer to a typical season.
Flu season peaks in February, so if you haven’t gotten a shot yet, you’re not too late! As with last year, public health officials are worried about a “twindemic” where either people will get both the flu and COVID-19 or the hospitals will be overwhelmed with cases of COVID-19 and the flu at the same time. To protect yourself and help hospitals from being overrun, getting both vaccines is essential. A COVID-19 vaccine will not protect you from the flu, and a flu vaccine won’t protect you from COVID-19.
You can get both vaccines at the same time if you only want to make one trip to the doctor or pharmacy. But, as you may experience side effects from both shots, you may want to take separate trips.
While the side effects from the shots aren’t as bad as the real illnesses, you can feel a little rough. “You may experience mild side effects from each of the vaccines, so if you wanted to separate the two vaccines by two weeks,” said Dr. Anita Skariah, an internist at UNC Health.
If you plan on traveling this winter to see friends or family, or if they are traveling to see you, you shouldn’t delay your shot! “It takes a few weeks to make antibodies once vaccinated, and the efficacy does diminish after six months. This is why we recommend obtaining the vaccine in September or October. In the past, we typically have seen increased influenza cases in October, increasing as the winter progresses and into early spring,” Dr. Skariah said.
If you haven’t gotten a shot yet, you shouldn’t panic. Vaccines are still available. But, you should call ahead to your pharmacy. Though most of us just walked in to get them in years past, some places require appointments now. Check before going and make an appointment if necessary. There is still time to get a flu shot and stay healthy this winter!