5 Answers About the Flu Shot for 2020 From Doctors Who Are Also Parents
The Flu Season is just around the corner. It’s no different from any other year. Except for, wellll - you know: the slight issue of a global pandemic. To help parents out, we’ve collected 5 common questions that parents have about the flu vaccine and asked clinicians to answer them. Even better: all of them also happen to be parents.
Question #1: Does the flu vaccine work?
Yes. Every flu season we see different strains of the flu virus circulating and causing illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention monitors flu activity worldwide and guides the choice of vaccine so that it closely matches the current flu viruses. Unfortunately, the viruses sometimes change quickly during the flu season so the vaccine may not always be a perfect match. But the flu vaccine does provide a level of protection that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Dr. Ken Hempstead, M.D
Question #2: Can the flu vaccine make me sick? Can I get sick even if I get a flu shot?
The flu vaccine does not cause the flu. Some people who get vaccinated do get the flu. Vaccination makes the illness less severe and can help keep you out of the hospital.
Dr. Arthur Coffey, MD
Question #3: Who Should Get the Flu Vaccine?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older. But it's especially important for those who are at greater risk of developing health problems from the flu, including:
- all kids 6 months through 4 years old (babies younger than 6 months are also considered high risk, but they cannot receive the flu vaccine)
- anyone 65 years and older
- all women who are pregnant, are thinking about becoming pregnant, have recently given birth, or are breastfeeding during flu season
- anyone whose immune system is weak from medicines or illnesses (like HIV infection)
- people who live in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes
- anyone (adults, teens, and kids) with an ongoing medical condition, such as asthma or diabetes
- kids or teens who take aspirin regularly and are at risk for developing Reye syndrome if they get the flu
- caregivers or household contacts of anyone in a high-risk group (like children younger than 5 years old, especially those younger than 6 months, and those with high-risk conditions)
Dr. Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Question #4: When is the right time to get the flu shot?
You and your children should get it early. The flu season runs from roughly September to March. The sooner you get it, the sooner you are protected. It’s best to get it done before the end of October. This is especially true if your child is young and hasn’t had it before, because children who are less than nine years old and getting it for the first time need two doses, a month apart. So getting started early is even more important for them. If your child is younger than nine and only got one dose last season, they will need two doses this season.
Dr. Claire McCarthy, MD
Question #5: Will getting the flu shot prevent me from getting COVID-19?
The flu vaccine will not help you avoid infection with COVID-19, because they are different viruses – one that we know a lot about (the flu) and one that is very new (coronavirus). “The flu shot will help you avoid being co-infected with both, which could be miserable and/or very devastating. This year’s flu vaccine is updated to better protect against flu strains we expect to circulate this flu season.
Dr. Stephen Rinderknecht, DO