UHS offers flu shots for the public by appointment
Flu season will be a bit different again this year, with the added specter of COVID-19 on people's minds with the arrival of fall and winter. But it's still vitally important to get your annual flu shot, whether or not you’ve had the COVID vaccine.
UHS is offering flu shots to the public. But this year, as in 2020, they are by appointment, for everyone's safety. A fee is charged for the shot.
With a few exceptions, getting the annual influenza vaccine is a good idea for everyone age six months and older. Unlike some vaccines you receive only in childhood, and periodic vaccines like those for tetanus or whooping cough, a flu shot is needed every year.
That's because there are multiple strains of the flu. Before one flu season is even over, the World Health Organization meets to decide which strains are likely to infect the most people during the next season.
Flu vaccine is available at UHS primary care and pediatric offices throughout the region. Call your primary care provider or your child’s pediatrician to make an appointment. You can also ask them about drive-through flu shot locations at that time.
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How the flu vaccine is developed
Scientists prepare vaccines that protect against the three (trivalent) or four (quadrivalent) most prevalent strains. Anyone with an allergy to vaccine components, a previous serious adverse reaction to the vaccine or a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome (a severe paralyzing illness) should not get a flu shot.
In the past, individuals with an egg allergy were advised not to receive a flu shot, but now the recommendation is to discuss your allergy and the flu shot with your primary care provider.
If you’ve ever heard someone say the flu shot gave them the flu, cross that off your list of worries, UHS medical experts note. It’s a coincidence if the person genuinely gets the flu right after immunization. They either were already infected and had no symptoms or were exposed within the two weeks it takes to develop immunity after getting the shot.
Flu vaccine is widely available. Primary care providers, pediatricians, pharmacies, community vaccination clinics and many workplaces offer flu vaccine. In the Northeastern United States, the best time to seek out your vaccine is September and October.
Said Bridget Talbut, RN, director of Clinical Services at UHS: “If you need to hold yourself accountable with a hard deadline, consider Halloween your cut-off date.”
How the shot protects you
Antibodies will peak a month to a month and a half after your shot and last for about six months afterwards. If you don’t get a flu shot early but change your mind later in flu season, vaccination is still beneficial.
For some people in higher-risk groups, the flu is an even bigger threat. For example, it’s especially important to get a flu shot if you are pregnant; immunosuppressed; a person with a chronic cardiopulmonary disease; have renal, hepatic, neurologic, hematologic or metabolic disorders (including diabetes); are over age 50; are a healthcare worker; are a nursing home resident; or are the parent, caregiver or household contact of an infant under six months of age.
Flu shots and kids
Children ages six months and up, and particularly children on long-term aspirin therapy, should all be sure to get the flu vaccine.
Children age six months to 8 years who are receiving the flu shot for the first time, or who have in the past received only a single dose, need two doses. So seek out the first shot as soon as your pediatrician’s office makes them available, then schedule the second dose four weeks later.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the first dose “primes” the immune system; the second dose provides immune protection. Children who get only one dose but need two doses can have reduced protection from only a single dose of flu vaccine. Children who have previously received two doses of vaccine at any time need only one dose of vaccine this season.
Take precautions, and care for yourself
Now, during the COVID-19 pandemic and the approaching flu season, it’s especially important to take care of yourself, protect your family against viruses and be respectful of the life and health of those you come in contact with.
In addition to getting the flu shot, be sure to practice good hygiene overall during flu season. Make sure to wear your COVID-19 mask, wash your hands frequently, practice physical distancing and disinfect surfaces as warranted.
Also, to protect yourself against infection, get adequate rest and hydration, cover your mouth and nose whenever you cough or sneeze, avoid sick individuals and stay home yourself if you’re ill.
Remember that some years the flu vaccine does not fully protect you from getting the flu, but it may decrease how sick you become. Plus, the more years you get the flu vaccine, the more strains of the flu you may have some protection against.
The flu generally comes on suddenly, within hours. Most people experience mild symptoms, but if you’re in a high-risk group or your symptoms worsen, contact your healthcare provider immediately.