5 key facts about the flu vaccine: Now’s the best time to get vaccinated

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 25, 2018

The flu is unpredictable and can be dangerous. Flu season can start in the fall or winter but not peak until the spring. It can be mild or severe, so experts agree it is best to prepare now by getting vaccinated. There’s no guarantee the vaccine will prevent you from getting the flu. But experts agree: some protection is better than no protection.

What else do you need to know about the flu vaccine?

Dr. David Priest, Novant Health medical director of infectious prevention, answers common questions:

Why is October the best month to get vaccinated for the flu?

Flu season generally starts in November. We recommend you get the flu shot by the end of October. It takes a couple of weeks for antibodies to be formed so the vaccine protects you. Flu season often peaks in January and February. The flu shot vaccination typically lasts six months.

Why did so many get the flu in the 2017-18 season?

H3N2 was dominant flu strain last season. The vaccine last year didn’t match that particular strain well. We’re optimistic the match this year will be better. Influenza is preventable and you should be vaccinated. It’s not a perfect tool by any means, but it’s a very important tool for how we protect people during influenza season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 80,000 people died from the flu and its complications last winter, and more than 900,000 people were hospitalized because of the illness.

Can the flu shot make you sick?

The flu shot doesn’t give you the flu because you’re not receiving the flu virus. Some people don’t feel great for a day or two after the shot, but it’s not the flu. It’s their body’s immune reaction to the vaccine, which means they’re responding appropriately.

Is the vaccination available in nasal spray?

Yes, the nasal spray is back. The thought is the newer version will be more effective than it has been the past couple of years. Any form (a shot or nasal spray) is better than nothing.

It’s something to take very seriously. People die from influenza. It’s best that we all get vaccinated.

What will help me if I do get the flu?

If you are sick — have a fever or symptoms of the flu — you should not go to work or school. Sometimes that’s hard in our culture that rewards fighting through illness. But in reality you’re putting other people at risk. Stay home until your fever has resolved for at least 24 hours.

If you think you have the flu, contact your medical provider and they may recommend a viral medication. The earlier you start taking that, the more effective it will be. And always wash your hands. It’s important to be vaccinated not only for yourself, but for those around you.