Each fall, doctors and public health officials across the country urge virtually every American to get a flu shot. But, despite their best efforts, only about 50% will heed their advice.
This begs the question: what’s the deal with our low vaccination rates?
A handful of myths and misconceptions about the flu shot may be partly to blame.
Because it’s super-duper important to get vaccinated this year, we wanted answer all of your flu shot questions and ease any concerns you may have.
We sat down with Thad Mick, ZOOM+Care’s Vice President of Pharmaceutical Programs, to talk flu shot myths, common vaccination concerns, the importance of getting the shot this year, and more.
Hi Thad! Thanks for Talking with us Today.
With COVID-19 still circulating, this flu season is a little different. When would you recommend people get their flu shots this year?
There is no better time to protect yourself, your family, and your community from flu than right now. The CDC, and the broader medical community, recommend receiving your flu vaccine in the early fall before the flu virus begins circulating broadly. It takes about two weeks to develop a full immune response after the vaccine, so it is better to get protected now rather than wait.
We’ve heard that it’s Extra important to get a flu shot this year. Can you tell us why?
With COVID-19 infection rates on the rise, there have been numerous discussions within the medical community about the potential for a “twindemic.” While a vaccine for COVID-19 is not available today, we do have a safe and effective vaccine to prevent influenza.
We must use the tools we have available to protect our friends and family and reduce the use of our critical healthcare systems. Flu vaccines are an important tool to limit the amount of respiratory illness circulating in our community. When we receive a flu vaccine, we do our part to protect our communities and ensure we have the much-needed space available in our hospitals and care centers to support those who need it most.
Is there any concern about the availability of vaccines this year?
Vaccine manufacturers have committed to supplying almost 200 million doses of flu vaccines this season. While there were some early reports of isolated flu vaccine shortages, most communities now have adequate vaccine supplies.
Do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has increased awareness about flu prevention and general preventative public health measures?
The pandemic has most definitely created an environment of individual social responsibility and awareness around our actions and roles in protecting our community. Each of us recognizes, more than ever, how we can help maintain a safe and protected space with vigilant hand hygiene, social distancing, face coverings, and flu vaccinations.
With each of us doing our part, we can collectively reduce the impact of this pandemic.
“When it feels like so much is out of our control these days, it is important to take hold of those areas in our life that we can influence, especially when it comes to protecting our health—and that of our friends and family. “Thad Mick, Vice President of Pharmaceutical Programs
can the flu shot put you at higher risk for contracting COVID-19?
There is a ton of misinformation surfacing on social media platforms these days. The truth is that there has not been a single study to date that has demonstrated any additional risk of contracting COVID-19 following a flu vaccine.
The real concern is a potential co-infection with influenza and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19. Should you become infected with influenza, a compromised immune system may allow CoV-2 to have a more significant impact on your health, leading to more severe symptoms or longer recovery time.
A lot of people want to avoid the doctor’s office right now due to COVID-19. What is ZOOM+Care to make getting a flu shot safe?
We have always maintained clean, safe, uncrowded clinics that provide on-demand, quality care efficiently. This flu season, we have implemented even more rigorous standards to clean our clinics, ensure our staff is properly attired in PPE to protect them and you, eliminate gathering in our reception area and provide the fastest flu vaccine visit available.
Besides safety, what are some other reasons to get the flu shot at ZOOM+Care?
We have worked hard to develop a flu vaccination destination that eliminates each of the barriers that exist today in most healthcare facilities.
We have created a system that allows for on-demand, same-day scheduling for your flu vaccine. No need to plan days or weeks ahead to reserve limited space/time for a flu shot.
With your appointment booked, all you need to do is show up on time to our crowd-less reception area, complete a quick health survey, and receive your vaccine in a clean private room.
You will be in and out of your ZOOM+Care flu shot visit in less than five minutes.
Each year I conduct a secret shopper exercise to test our systems and look for opportunities for improvement. This year I went online at 11:30, booked an appointment during my lunch hour at 12:15, walked into the clinic at 12:14, and left the clinic at 12:18 after getting my shot. The entire experience was less than five minutes.
Are there side effects of the flu vaccine? How common are these side effects?
Some people report having mild reactions to the flu shot. The most common side effects from flu shots include soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling at the site of the shot, low-grade fever or headache, and mild muscle aches.
For those who experience these side effects, they usually begin soon after the shot and only last 1-2 days.
How long does the flu vaccine last?
It takes about two weeks to develop a full immune response after the vaccine. Immunity duration can vary. For most people, it lasts for six to eight months, although it may last longer for some.
How effective is this year’s vaccine?
The effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies from year to year, often hovering between 40%-60%. Two primary factors impact the vaccine’s effectiveness: the viral match between the vaccine and the circulating viral strain(s) and the demographics and health status of those vaccinated.
Even in years when the vaccine’s effectiveness falls to the lower side of this range, benefits are realized when large portions of the population are vaccinated. These include fewer flu-related deaths, reduced severity of symptoms by those who are vaccinated and get sick, and a decline in the number of hospitalizations from the flu.
Say someone never gets the flu. Why should they bother to get a flu shot?
Just because you have not been infected with influenza in the past, don’t fool yourself into thinking you are immune to the flu virus or any other. The odds are that you have just been lucky enough to avoid exposure to some of the more virulent strains of the virus that have circulated in the past. The CDC, and every reputable healthcare expert, recommends that everyone six months of age and older receive a flu vaccine this year.
Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death. Getting a flu vaccine this fall will be more important than ever—not only to reduce your risk from flu but also to help protect those around you and conserve potentially scarce health care resources. It is one of the best things we can do to protect our communities and keep hospital beds free for those who need them during this pandemic.
Anything else you’d like to add?
When it feels like so much is out of our control these days, it is important to take hold of those areas in our life that we can influence, especially when it comes to protecting our health—and that of our friends and family.
With same-day appointments, at a clean, safe, uncrowded clinic that require less than five minutes, at low to no out of pocket cost, there is absolutely no reason to avoid the flu shot; especially this year.