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The flu shot: What is it and why do I need one every year?

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As we enter another fall and winter season with COVID-19 variants still circulating, it's important not to forget the vaccine that comes around every year: the flu shot. Read on to understand why getting a flu shot should top your list of seasonal to-dos.

Why get the flu shot in the fall?

Although you can get the flu any time of year, the virus is particularly rampant during the fall and winter months, usually peaking between December and February. Getting your annual flu shot is the best way to prevent severe illness and hospitalization—for yourself and others. The more people who get their flu vaccine, the less the virus spreads among immunocompromised and elderly people.

What does the flu vaccine do?

Flu vaccines work extremely well. While they don’t guarantee that you’ll avoid the flu altogether, they significantly lower your risk of hospitalization and flu-related mortality.

In the 2019-2020 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that vaccines prevented:

  • 7.5 million cases of the flu
  • 3.7 million flu-related doctor visits
  • 105,000 flu-related hospitalizations
  • 6,300 flu-related deaths

Up-to-date and FDA-approved

The flu vaccine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to protect against four different strains of the flu. The shot gets updated each year based on which strains of the virus are most likely to be circulating throughout the country.

When you get the flu vaccine, your immunity against the virus decreases over time. Getting the shot each year is like a booster to keep your immune system strong against influenza.

Protecting the most vulnerable

Not only does the flu shot protect you, but it also protects everyone around you. For example, the vaccine can:

  • Decrease the risk of certain cardiac problems in people with heart disease
  • Lower the risk of flu-related complications in people with a lung condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Keep people with chronic lung disease and diabetes out of the hospital
  • Reduce pregnant women’s risk of being hospitalized with the flu by 40%
  • Lower the chances that a child will go to the ICU with the flu by almost 75%

Who needs to get the flu shot?

Experts recommend that all adults and children age 6 months and up get the flu shot—preferably in October. But if you haven’t gotten yours yet, getting it in November will still protect you for peak flu season.

As we head into holiday season, many people are gathering with family, especially if they didn’t gather in person last year. The flu spreads like other viruses such as COVID-19: from person to person, especially while in close proximity. Getting your flu shot before your family celebrations helps to keep everyone as healthy as possible.

Where can I get my flu vaccine?

Flu vaccines are typically available in pharmacies, walk-in clinics, doctor’s offices and possibly even your workplace or school.

Still need your flu shot for this year? Find an Adventist Health provider near you and get your flu shot scheduled today.