Get your flu vaccine. It’s something you should do every year (and I’m guilty myself of skipping years, not because I’m opposed to it, but because I’m lazy and forget), but you should particularly do it during a pandemic involving another respiratory illness like COVID-19.
Get the flu vaccine for yourself, of course, so your odds of catching the flu go down, but you also do it for others. As with COVID-19 and any other illness that can spread, you have to think of others beyond yourself. The last thing you or the community (that is, healthcare workers, healthcare resources, and healthcare systems) need is the double-whammy of the flu and COVID-19 as we had into the winter months.
People seem to have this idea that because the flu is always evolving and the vaccination is always changing, that the flu vaccination is useless. But that’s unbelievably wrong. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
Flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor’s visits each year. For example, during 2018-2019, flu vaccination prevented an estimated 4.4 million influenza illnesses, 2.3 million influenza-associated medical visits, 58,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations, and 3,500 influenza-associated deaths [emphasis mine].
Think about that! Because of the vaccine, 3,500 lives were saved during flu season. But even if you’re not dying from the flu, again, not putting that strain on the system is imperative during a global pandemic, which is showing no signs of abating unfortunately. Not to say nothing of the fact that, getting the flu, no matter who you are, isn’t exactly a walk in the park.
The flu vaccine is also safe. In the last 50 years, hundreds of millions of Americans have received the flu vaccine safely, according to the CDC. That doesn’t mean some won’t experience an adverse effect, but it’s rare. More common effects could be redness/swelling from where the shot was, a low-grade fever, and aches.
If you’re interested in more flu vaccination myths, Harvard also has a nice list of 10 myths here. Perhaps the most common myth is that the flu vaccine transmits the flu itself. But that’s a misunderstanding of how vaccinations work on two fronts, as Harvard explains: First, the vaccine is an inactivated virus that can’t transmit virus, and secondly, the vaccine takes a week or two to protect you from the flu, so in that intervening time, if you catch the flu, that’s why, not because the vaccine itself gave it to you.
CDC recommends getting the flu vaccine by the end of October, but with flu circulating, you can see get the vaccine even in January or later.
I went today to my local Walgreens to get the flu vaccine shot. To find a location for your own shot, visit: vaccinefinder.org.
If you’re doing the Walgreens route like me, it was super easy.
- I did mine as a walk-in. As in, I literally walked to the pharmacy and said, “Hi, I’m here to get my flu shot.”
- The pharmacy technician took my basic information, such as name, birthday, and address, and asked for my insurance card.
- Fortunately, I have insurance, but even if you didn’t, flu vaccines tend to range from $20 to $70 depending on location and need.
- I filled out a form to indicate I didn’t have any allergies or any other issues that would complicate getting a vaccine.
- They took my temperature because of COVID-19.
- Six people were ahead of me in line. Each person took about four minutes to get their shot.
- When it was my turn, I rolled up my sleeve, and the doctor dabbed it, pricked it, bandaged it, and that was it.
It really is that easy. Even with a walk-in and wait with six people ahead of me, I was in and out of Walgreens in 30 minutes flat. Not a bad bargain for protecting myself and others, right?
Get the flu vaccination. Don’t be that person who rebels against doing what you should do merely because someone is telling you what to do. Be the person who does the right thing because it’s the right thing, not only for yourself but others.