Worth A Shot: Get Your Flu Shot Now
Worth A Shot: Get Your Flu Shot Now
September 28, 2022
With so much focus on the new and valuable Covid bivalent booster shot, you might forget about your need to get the usual “Fall” shot, i.e., your flu vaccination. But that would be a mistake, given everything experts know and warn us about this Fall. While the scope and severity of flu season are difficult to predict, the warning signs from the southern hemisphere don’t bode well. In fact, according to experts, the flu this year in the southern hemisphere has come roaring back akin to pre-Covid times. That warning, combined with fewer masks, more social congregation, and a lot of travel may result in a very dangerous flu season, especially for older adults and young children who lack previous exposure to the flu. We know that flu vaccine rates (which typically top out at 50% of eligible people) have been lower during the past few years of the pandemic. So it’s important to underscore, especially this year, the value of flu vaccines and the timing of your flu shot- which should be right about now.
It takes about 2 weeks for the antibodies to build up in response to a flu vaccine. Since flu season typically begins in October and runs through March, now would be the right time to schedule your shot if you haven’t already. We do know that the flu is already circulating in the states of Texas, New Mexico, Delaware, and Georgia. We also know that both original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans should pay for your flu shot, so cost should not be a consideration. If you’d like to peruse all of the information put out by the CDC on this year’s influenza season and flu shots, roll up your sleeve and read here (key facts about the flu vaccine), here (flu and people 65 years and older), here (frequently asked flu questions for 2022-2023) and here (about chronic health conditions and the flu).
Or, you can get the most direct, helpful, and easy-to-digest information from Better Health While Aging’s Dr. Leslie Kernisan, who has an updated set of guidelines and recommendations for this year’s flu season. Her main message? Older adults, with less vigorous immune systems, may be more susceptible to the flu and complications. You best position yourself against infection if you have antibodies in your system from a flu vaccine; this year, there are 3 different vaccines specifically authorized for those 65 and older. They are stronger than the typical flu vaccine and should better protect you if you are exposed (and remember to continue some of your Covid protections such as masking, handwashing, and limiting exposure to others who may be sick). The 3 special older adult flu vaccines are Fluzone High Dose Quadrivalent, Fluad Quadrivalent, and Flublock Quadrivalent, each protecting you against 4 different strains of this year’s flu. If none of these are available, she suggests you’re still better off getting the regular flu vaccine. She also suggests you make sure you’re up to date on your pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine.
If you’re still hesitating and need an additional nudge, you may find it of interest that there is now scientific research linking the flu vaccine to heart health generally and a lower risk of stroke. A recent study published in Neurology reports that there appears to be a 12% lower risk of having a stroke after you receive an influenza vaccine. While more research needs to be done to confirm these results, it seems like a valuable benefit for those at risk. Find out more by reading here. And more broadly, an original cardiology investigation published in JAMA Network Open reports that because of the impact of flu on the lungs, oxygen levels to the heart may be reduced, raising the risk of heart attack or cardiac arrest. So do your heart (and yourself) a favor, read here, and schedule a flu shot now.