Flu activity is rising, but there's still time to get your flu shot this season
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), last year's flu season was the longest lasting in 10 years. Already this year, doctors are reporting more flu activity than is typical for this point in the season.
National Influenza Vaccination Week, observed annually during the first week of December, serves as a critical reminder that it's never too late to get a flu vaccination. While it's impossible to predict how severe this flu season will be or when flu activity will spike, the best defense against the flu is the flu shot.
Still, there are a handful of myths surrounding the flu shot that persist year over year. In the spirit of National Influenza Vaccination Week, below are the myths and facts you need to know to protect yourself and those around you this season.
MYTH: The flu shot can give you the flu
FACT: The flu vaccine is not a live virus, so it cannot cause the recipient to contract the flu. If someone gets the flu shortly after receiving a flu shot, it is likely that he or she was exposed to influenza prior to getting the vaccine. The flu vaccine can take up to two weeks to become fully effective, so it's important that you get the flu shot early (and well before large holiday gatherings).
MYTH: Flu shots don't always work
FACT: The flu virus evolves and changes each year, and flu vaccinations are engineered to fight against the most prevalent strains of influenza each season. The vaccine stimulates the body's immune system to make antibodies, which can recognize and attack the strain of virus inside the body. But, even if you contract a strain of virus not included in the vaccine, the flu shot can help make flu symptoms less severe.
MYTH: There's no reason to get a flu shot late in the season
FACT: While the CDC recommends a flu shot for everyone over the age of six months before October 31st, it's never too late to get your flu vaccine. In some cases, new strains of the virus can emerge throughout the season, so it's important to get your vaccine annually.
MYTH: Healthy people do not need a flu shot
FACT: The flu vaccination not only protects the person who gets it, it provides critical protection for more vulnerable people in the community, such as those with compromised immune systems and infants who are too young to get the flu vaccine themselves. When the majority of a population gets an immunization, there are fewer opportunities for an outbreak to occur.
MYTH: Older individuals cannot get the flu shot
FACT: The CDC recommends every person six months of age and older get the flu vaccination. There are special variations of the flu shot designed for pregnant women and individuals 65 years of age and older. Ask a pharmacist which vaccination is right for you.
Let National Influenza Vaccination Week serve as a reminder to get your flu shot and encourage someone in your life to do the same.
Farah Kahn is a pharmacy manager at Walgreens in Lisle. Flu shots are free with most insurance plans and available at all Walgreens pharmacies during pharmacy hours with no appointment needed. State, age, and health restrictions may apply.