This is the time of year that Texans start to think of or experience three F’s: football, fall’s cooler weather and the flu. While COVID-19 may be delaying our Friday night lights, and cooler weather is still a couple of months away, there will be no delay of the flu season. The pandemic has made it even more critical this year for all of us to get our flu shot, not only to protect ourselves but to also protect those we love and our communities and resources.
A recent New York Times article by Jan Hoffman coined the term “Twindemic.” The term made me stop in my tracks because of the mental picture it created. While COVID-19 is a new pandemic, every year in the United States we have an epidemic with flu, and this year these two will overlap. Last flu season, the CDC estimates that from Oct. 1, 2019, to April 4, 2020, there were between 39 million and 56 million flu illnesses, 18 million to 26 million medical visits, 410,000 to 740,000 flu hospitalizations, and between 24,000 and 62,000 flu-related deaths. Think about layering this on top of our current COVID situation. In addition to these statistics, consider that cough, fever and shortness of breath are symptoms that may occur in both COVID-19 and flu. Differentiating the two based on symptoms alone may be difficult. Have I painted a compelling picture of the importance of a flu shot this year?
You may be saying “I never get a flu shot, and I never get the flu,” so why this year? The answer is simple; this year is different. This year, we need to do what we should do every year. Get a flu shot! There are lots of excuses for not getting immunized, but no good ones. This is the year for us to realize we are not invincible and that we must be part of the solution.
Still hesitant on getting your flu shot? Texas Immunizers and Stakeholders Working Group and The Immunization Partnership have some myth busting facts concerning flu and some of its misconceptions.
First, you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. The vaccine is not made from live viruses.
“I got sick from the flu shot.” The truth is, it takes about two weeks for you to build your immunity. Many people may have been exposed before they got their shot and got the flu at about the same time they got their shot.
“I got the flu shot and still got the flu.” It is true that sometimes the match is not exact with the strains that make up the flu shot, but in most cases the person gets a much milder case.
“I cannot get a flu shot because I have an egg allergy.” There are two egg-free flu vaccines available for patients with egg allergies.
With many clinics doing telemedicine instead of in-person visits, and many people working from home who may have previously received their flu shot at a company-sponsored clinic, you may wonder where to get your flu shot. In addition to your doctor and neighborhood clinic, your local pharmacist is ready to ensure your protection. Pharmacists are a knowledgeable resource who can educate, address patients’ concerns on immunizations and administer it. Pharmacies are open evenings and weekends, removing one more excuse for not getting protected. Accessibility, simply, should not be a roadblock.
To me getting your flu shot is like putting on your mask. Protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu. Get your flu shot at the first opportunity!