Top 3 Things to Know About This Year’s Flu Vaccine
Since the introduction of the flu vaccine almost 80 years ago, scientists have developed many types to suit nearly every person over the age of 6 months. Some versions are specially formulated for people of different ages and those that contain fewer allergens. Depending on your age, you can get an injection or nasal spray of the flu vaccine and, for some individuals, a unique formulation to help boost the response for those with a weakened immune system. Certain vaccines are sometimes jet injected. While the details may be interesting, the most important thing is to get a flu vaccine every year, especially this year.
The emergence of COVID-19 has made getting a flu vaccine more important than ever. Getting both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time or in quick succession could be deadly. Because we don’t yet have a vaccine for COVID-19, getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever this year to protect yourself and people around you from the flu. Getting the flu vaccine is the best thing you can do to protect your health and reduce the strain on healthcare systems responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Protecting ourselves from the flu also protects those around us. If the flu doesn’t infect us, we can’t pass it to others.
Earlier is better. In the past, healthcare providers would encourage individuals to get an annual flu vaccine as late as January. This year, because of COVID-19, earlier is better. According to Vermont Commissioner of Health Dr. Mark Levine (1:39:59), we should aim to get our flu vaccination in September or October.
Getting your most desirable formulation is not as important as getting a vaccine. While it’s nice to have your preferred vaccine type, not all types are readily available every year. For instance, the high-dose vaccine, specifically designed for individuals aged 65 and older, is somewhat limited this year. It may make sense to wait a little while to see if the vaccine becomes available at your doctor’s office or local pharmacy, but don’t wait too long. The standard-dose vaccine provides coverage against four flu strains and is a lot better than no vaccine. If you have questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist, and they will help choose the best vaccine available for you.
Knowing what you know now, your next task is to track down your flu vaccine at your doctor’s office, pharmacy, or at a flu clinic. Once you’re vaccinated, spread the word to encourage others to get vaccinated, as well. When it comes to preventing serious illnesses, like COVID-19 and the flu, we are most successful when we work together.
Rob Sherman, PharmD, is the director of Pharmacy Services at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.