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Would a Flu Shot Help Minimize Your Risk? Learn More Here.

While influenza (“flu”) can strike anyone, there are definitely some people with higher risk. Flu season officially begins October 1, and runs through early April. Fortunately, we know this particular illness is coming, and we have an effective vaccine…if people use it. Here’s the third in our series of articles explaining the what, why and how of flu shots. This time: who should get a flu shot?

Q.     Who is at the most risk for contracting the flu?

A.     Influenza attacks the respiratory system. It typically comes with a high fever, labored breathing, and a host of other symptoms. Anyone who already has difficulty breathing or is immunocompromised in some way is at risk. It’s also highly contagious. Unlike COVID-19, the flu can be deadly for young children.

Q.     So who should get a flu shot?

A.     You should talk to your primary care physician or your child’s pediatrician if you have any questions about whether or not to get a flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that the following groups of people get a flu shot due to their elevated risk levels. If you fall into one of these categories, you definitely need to talk to your physician and/or just go get your vaccine:

  • Children 6 months through 5 years old (remember that children are much more susceptible to the flu than to COVID)
  • Adults who are 50 or older
  • People with chronic breathing problems (including asthma), or heart problems
  • People who are immunocompromised for any reason, including cancer, lupus, or HIV
  • Women who are or will be pregnant during the influenza season
  • Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities
  • Adults with a BMI of 40 or greater

Q.     Is a flu shot covered by insurance?

A.     Virtually every insurance pays for 100% of the cost.  There is typically no cost at all to the patient.

Q.     Am I guaranteed not to get the flu if I get a vaccine?

A.     No. Because there are many strains of the flu, it is possible for you to catch one that was not specifically targeted in the vaccine. However, your changes of getting the flu decrease significantly with a vaccine. Also, if you do get it, your symptoms will generally be milder if you’ve had a vaccine than if you haven’t had one.

Q.     If I’ve had COVID-19, should I get a flu shot?

A.     Absolutely. Just wait until your symptoms have subsided before getting your vaccine. Remember that flu attacks the respiratory system, just like COVID-19 does. Your body does not need to be punished a second time if it can be avoided!

Q.     What about a pneumonia shot?  Should I get that at the same time? 

A.     Pneumonia also attacks the respiratory system, and so many of the same people who are at risk for the flu are in the bullseye for pneumonia. Although children are not typically immunized for pneumonia, it’s safe to say that almost anyone 65 or older should be vaccinated. And again, many of the groups on the list above are just as vulnerable to pneumonia as to the flu. If you are in one of those groups, check with your doctor. If you need one, it’s very convenient to get your pneumonia shot at the same time as your flu shot.

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