Author: Asha K. Shah, MD, MS
Remember the flu: the respiratory virus that wracks your body with fever and aches?
We haven’t seen much flu in the past couple of years, because of lockdown, mask-wearing, and other measures implemented to halt the spread of COVID-19. Now that COVID-19 cases are declining, so are the mitigation measures. This means that we are expecting greater flu transmission this year, which is why you and your family, including children ages 6 months and older, should get vaccinated against the flu right now.
To help guide you, here are answers to frequently asked questions from patients:
How long will it take for the flu shot to be effective?
It takes up to two weeks for the flu shot to provide maximum immunity. Getting vaccinated by the end of October will give you protection that lasts well into early spring. If you can’t get vaccinated until November or later, it’s still not too late – get a shot as soon as you can.
Do you expect this flu season to be worse than in the past?
Flu is seasonal. It usually lasts from winter to early spring, sometimes as late as May. It was not surprising to see a substantial decrease in circulating flu during the last two years, with schools closed, parties and weddings canceled, and people working and gathering remotely. Once mitigation measures were relaxed earlier this year, we saw a rise in flu cases even into the summer. In Australia and New Zealand, where winter occurs opposite of our summer, more flu cases have been seen and the season started earlier. This could predict an equally rough season here at home.
Which age groups should be most concerned about the flu?
Flu can cause serious complications and turn fatal, especially in young children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with certain medical conditions. It can be particularly dangerous for people ages 65 and older, especially if they have other medical issues such as lung or heart disease that increases the risk for hospitalization.
I got a flu shot last year. Do I really need it again?
There are different strains of the flu virus which can change each year. Getting a flu shot annually is important because the vaccine that you received last year may not protect you against this year’s strains. Plus, the protection you get from the vaccine can wane over time. New flu vaccines are made yearly, using the previous season’s most common circulating virus strains. We won’t know how the flu shot stacks up until the end of the flu season, once all the data is in.
Can the flu vaccine give me the flu?
The vaccine will not give you the flu because it does not contain live virus. It also is not guaranteed to be 100% effective. But it is still important to get vaccinated to prevent severe disease and hospitalization.
Is it safe to give the flu vaccine to my infant or young child?
The Centers for Disease Control urges everyone ages 6 months and older to get a flu shot every year. Most children need only one dose, but some between 6 months and 8 years may initially need two. Ask your pediatrician what is best for your child. They are building their immune systems and could be even more susceptible to infection if they haven’t been sick in two years.
Is it safe to get the flu and COVID vaccines at the same time?
Both adults and children can get the flu and COVID vaccines at the same time. If you cannot schedule both vaccines for the same visit, then make two appointments. They are that important.
How can I schedule my flu shot?
Call your primary care physician's office today to schedule your flu and/or COVID vaccine. You can also get the flu and/or COVID vaccine at our Walk-In Center, located at 292 Long Ridge Road in Stamford, open Monday-Friday 8am-12pm and Saturday/Sunday 8am-1pm, with additional hours Wednesday-Friday 1-5pm for flu/COVID vaccinations only. (For vaccinations at the Walk-In Center, patients must call ahead to schedule an appointment: 203.276.8575.) For those seeking a new doctor, many of our primary care physicians are accepting new patients, and you can use our website to search for a doctor near you.
We wish you a healthy, safe, and flu-free season!
About the Author
Asha K. Shah, MD, MS, is the director of infectious diseases at Stamford Health.
Featured Expert/ Author