Despite a heavy focus on COVID-19, health officials are seeing both confirmed cases and hospitalizations from influenza (flu) this fall. National Influenza Vaccination Week is a call to all Americans six months and older to get their annual flu vaccine if they have not already. Since COVID-19 and flu could spread simultaneously this winter, this week will serve to remind people that there is still time to get a flu vaccine to protect against flu illness and serious flu complications.
Many of the prevention measures (wearing a mask, social distancing and good hand hygiene) we are taking for COVID-19 overlap with great protections for seasonal flu. Below are a few Q&A about flu and the safety/effectiveness of the vaccination:
Q. What is flu?
- Flu is caused by viruses that attack the lungs, nose, and throat. This group of viruses is very different from those that cause stomach upset and diarrhea–or what some call the “stomach flu.”
- Flu symptoms can be mild or severe, but typically cause a cough, sore throat, body aches, and fever.
- Usually flu is more severe than a cold, and symptoms start very suddenly.
Q. Who is at high risk for flu?
- Most healthy people will recover from flu without complication; however, many people are in an age group or have a condition that places them at high risk for complications from flu. These groups include:
- Children under age 5 years, but especially those under 2 years
- Adults over age 65 years
- Pregnant women
- Persons with a chronic medical condition, such as asthma, neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions, lung and heart disease, chronic kidney disease and diabetes, weakened immune system, and obesity (especially those with BMI ≥40).
Q. How effective is flu vaccine?
- Efficacy can vary based on things like how healthy you are, how old you are, and whether you’ve been vaccinated before.
- While the vaccine won’t prevent every case of flu, it is the most specific tool we have against the flu. Even in years when efficacy is low, influenza vaccination prevents severe disease and death.
Q. Is flu vaccine safe?
- Year after year, flu vaccine is shown to be safe. They have been extensively studied for safety and are continuously monitored for safety
If you have not received your flu shot yet, it is not too late! To find where vaccines are available near you, use the search feature on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website (https://vaccinefinder.org/find-vaccine) – fill in the “Vaccines”, and “Near This Location” fields, then click “Search for Vaccine”.
Find more information about Minnesota’s “Band Together Against the Flu” campaign with bandage art created by Minnesota Artists here: https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/flu/band/index.html.