The flu is a very dangerous illness. Each year, millions of people get infected. While many survive without any ill results, many more die as a result. Others get the flu and suffer severe side effects. A case of the flu can leave people with debilitating symptoms such as exhaustion, reduced energy and even a low grade fever for weeks. Even after recovering, people can still fall short of full health and find it hard to do everything from bending over to speaking in public.
For a significant percentage of the population, the flu can also leave them with horrific effects that may shorten their lives and lead to complications such as heart attacks and severe lung damage leading to emphysema. Fortunately, medical science has come up with a way to help people avoid getting sick. Flu shots not only offer protection from the flu. Should someone get sick, the flu vaccine can ward off the worst of the symptoms. The vaccine can also drastically reduce the possibility of dying from the flu. These are just some of the reasons why public health experts recommend a yearly flu shot.
When to Head for a Shot
While the benefits of the flu shot are well known, there are issues that must be considered when it comes to getting the vaccine. One of the single most important is that of timing. Unlike other diseases, the flu is confined to a certain season. In general this season spans from early winter to early spring. The flu shot is typically given before winter arrives. That's because it is necessary to get shots to the general public before the flu arrives. After getting the vaccine, the body also needs about two weeks to produce the antibodies that will protect people from the disease.
Another issue that people need to think about when having a flu shot is the fact that the flu shot wears off over time. Most vaccines require only one or two doses to provide immunity for life. The flu is different. The flu changes each year, making it necessary to change the contents of the shot. Scientists start working on a flu shot formulation that is likely to offer the most protection early in the year. While scientists are working on a flu vaccine that can last longer, at the present time the flu shot given only lasts for a few months.
This means that people can get the vaccine and be left without protection when they need it the most. In the last month, concern about the timing of the flu shot has been front and center. The normal flu season has been drastically compromised by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Officials today are facing many issues stemming from the virus. This includes giving out the flu shots in the first place as well as when it should be administered. These issues have been confusing to many lay people and many healthcare officials. Officials are trying to answer questions, protect the general public and offer clear information about the flu and the flu vaccine.
Many employers, realizing the fact that flu shots are extremely cost effective, provide them at work for all of their employees. As the epidemic has filtered through the United States and other places around the world, people are staying home and working from home. As a result, they're not at work or school. This has made it harder to coordinate flu shot administration. It's also made it a lot harder for people in need to find access to places to get the shot in the first place.
Given this reality, some pharmacies have started to stock up on flu shots. Not only are they trying to ensure access for all who need it, some have also been urging people to get the shot as early as late August / early September. On the surface, this would seem a great idea. Get the shot and get it out of the way. Experts are so concerned about this issue and the kind of negative effects an early flu shot can have on many American populations, they've made some announcements that all people should heed.
While they highly recommend a flu shot, they warn against getting the shot far too early in the season. Most people have traditionally gotten the shot in the past starting in late September / early October. Officials at the CDC remind people to continue to stick to this plan. The shots need to be carefully timed. Too early and it will wear off well before the season starts. That can leave people open to serious illness. However, getting the shot too late can also cause issues. A person may already be infected by the time they get the shot, leaving them unprotected. Getting it later in the season can have the same nasty problems.
Keeping to the standard recommended flu shot schedule is best for a wide variety of reasons. The standard schedule avoids giving the shot too early when it may not be needed. It also allows enough time to let the body produce enough antibodies so it can fight off a flu infection naturally. This is especially important for those with certain underlying risk factors. Older people and those with conditions like diabetes face increased risk of side effects from flu. Even a relatively mild one can put them at risk of disability or death.
Following the standard schedule offers the most protection by also allowing people to avoid healthcare facilities unnecessarily. Many hospitals and other treatment centers have been overwhelmed caring for those with COVID-19. The symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu can overlap. Those who've had the flu shot know they're protected when they need it most. That will reduce the possibility of the need to head to the emergency room with severe flu symptoms as such symptoms are far less likely with the flu shot. In short, following these guidelines helps combat the flu and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.