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Flu Vaccination During a Pandemic: What you need to know!

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

It’s especially important to protect yourself by getting vaccinated for the flu this season. Here’s why:


Influenza vaccination will SAVE MORE LIVES during the COVID pandemic.


Vaccination for influenza normally saves 3,000-10,000 deaths each season. But vaccination during a heavy and widespread season would be expected to protect even more. During the 2017-2018 season, which was noted for its unusually long duration and high widespread flu activity, the flu shot prevented an estimated 8,000 deaths, 109,000 hospitalizations, 3.7 million medical visits, and 7.1 million cases, despite the fact that vaccine effectiveness was limited to <50% against the strains of viruses circulating that year.


COVID is predicted to greatly complicate the current flu season. But fewer flu cases will reduce symptoms that might be confused with COVID, and a decrease in the severity of flu cases will alleviate strain on our health care system. Getting vaccinated may keep you out of the doctor’s office and/or emergency room which can reduce exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. Finally, it could help avoid simultaneous infection with both the flu AND COVID which, in this unprecedented season, may be the most important reason of all to get vaccinated.


The flu vaccine won’t protect against COVID, but…


…getting the flu shot will help to conserve our healthcare resources by reducing the risk of influenza illness, hospitalizations, and death while we wait for a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine to be FDA approved.


The time to get vaccinated is early fall! Don’t wait! But it’s still not too late now!


The Centers for Disease Control recommends being vaccinated for influenza in September or October. But better late than never! Evidence suggests that delayed vaccination will still increase immunity well into the winter months, as long as the virus is still circulating. However, because the timing of flu outbreaks is unpredictable, it’s better to vaccinate in early fall. Schedule your flu shot at ZüpMed sooner rather than later. ZüpMed members receive the influenza vaccination at no additional charge!


Flu Shot Facts: Did you know?


The flu shot can protect against 3 or 4 different strains of influenza.


There are both Type A and Type B strains of the flu. Approved vaccinations are either “trivalent” or “quadrivalent” which refers to the number of different antigens present in the vaccine. The quadrivalent vaccine covers two A viruses and two B viruses. The trivalent vaccine covers two strains of A and one B virus.

There are different types of vaccines available- know which is best for you.


The main types of vaccinations are a live attenuated vaccination or an inactivated (recombinant) type. Each type of vaccine is designed to teach your immune system how to fight off certain types of germs. Live vaccinations use a weakened (or attenuated) form of the germ that causes the illness. But because they contain a small amount of the weakened live virus, they should generally be avoided in immunocompromised patients with weakened immune systems. An example of a live attenuated influenza vaccination is FluMist, which is given in both nostrils. Any influenza vaccination given as a shot has either been inactivated or uses specific pieces of the germ (like its protein or sugar) and is referred to as a recombinant form.


The flu shot is recommended for young and old, and every age in between.


Influenza vaccination is recommended for everyone ages six months and older who does not have a contraindication to vaccination (see below.) Different formulations are recommended for certain age groups as well as considerations for special populations:


  • Children aged 6 months through 8 years may need 2 doses and should receive their first dose as soon as possible after the vaccine becomes available so the second dose (which must be administered at least 4 weeks later) can be given by the end of October.

  • Older patients aged 65 and older need a special influenza vaccination that is higher in dose because of their vulnerability to more severe illness from the flu.

  • Pregnant patients (any trimester) and breastfeeding mothers should get vaccinated with any licensed, recommended, age-appropriate vaccine.


The flu shot doesn’t give you the flu, but some people develop mild reactions after vaccination.


The typical responses to vaccination are local injection site reaction and mild muscle soreness, but some patients can develop fever. Vaccine-associated fever can begin within 12 hours and may last as long as 3 days. The purpose of vaccination is to introduce the body to a fake viral substance, (like an imitator of the influenza), so that if the body sees it at a later time, it will attack it as a predator. This natural response to a first time invader can cause the fever, but it should not be confused as the flu itself. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be taken to manage this response to vaccination. Even if you don’t develop fever after vaccination, the good news is that your body will should be primed and ready to fight off the real virus later.


Immunocompromised patients need vaccination, too!


If you have cancer, HIV, or are immunocompromised because of another reason, don’t hesitate to get vaccinated. In fact, you may derive the most benefit from protection because of your heightened risk of infections. Immunocompromised patients may receive most licensed, recommended, age-appropriate vaccines. Immunocompromised patients should avoid the live attenuated vaccines, however.


There are rare but important contraindications to the influenza vaccination.


If you’ve had a severe reaction to the flu shot before, be sure to talk about this with your provider before getting vaccinated. Having a fever on the day you plan to get a flu shot is generally a reason to wait because your immune system is already fighting something else.


There are flu vaccines made especially for those with severe egg allergy.


Egg allergy is not a reason to avoid the flu shot. If you’ve experienced only hives after exposure to an egg, you can still receive any licensed, recommended, age-appropriate vaccination. If you’ve ever had swelling, life-threatening angioedema, or required emergency medications such as epinephrine after immunization, talk to your provider to choose a vaccine that is not made with egg proteins.


Despite what your inclination is on annual influenza vaccination, we can’t stress enough how important vaccination will be for this 2020-2021 season. We highly recommend getting vaccinated. Contact us online or call us at (901) 701-7010 with your questions. Let us know how we can help.


References:

  1. Rolfes MA, Foppa IM, Garg S, et al. Annual estimates of the burden of seasonal influenza in the United States: a tool for strengthening influenza surveillance and preparedness. Influenza Other Respir Viruses 2018;12:132–7. https://doi.org/10.1111/irv.12486

  2. Rolfes MA, Flannery B, Chung JR, et al; US Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness (Flu VE) Network, the Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network, and the Assessment Branch, Immunization Services Division, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Effects of influenza vaccination in the United States during the 2017–2018 influenza season. Clin Infect Dis 2019;69:1845–53. https://doi. org/10.1093/cid/ciz075

  3. CDC. Influenza (flu). Frequently asked influenza (flu) questions: 2020-2021 season. Updated August 31, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2020-2021.htm. (Accessed September 3, 2020).

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