Why you should get the flu shot this year
Getting vaccinated for seasonal influenza is fast, effective, and available at no cost to you. Here’s what you need to know, and how to get it.
While getting an annual vaccination for seasonal influenza (the flu) can help prevent those uncomfortable symptoms associated with the virus, it could also ultimately save your life (and the lives of those you love). “Influenza is a highly contagious and serious illness that still causes deaths each year,” says Scott W. Lindquist, M.D., state epidemiologist for communicable diseases and acting chief science officer for the state of Washington.
Symptoms of the flu include a fever, cough, body aches, and fatigue. While you’re most likely to contract the virus during flu season, it can happen at other times, too. Generally, the ways in which you prevent the spread of any virus are similar. Be sure to continue to use these stay-well strategies all flu season long:
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
- If no sink is available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol
- Avoid touching your face
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue; dispose of the tissue right away
- Avoid being in close contact with people who are sick if you can
- Avoid being in close contact with others when in public
- Sanitize commonly used surfaces
- Stay home if you’re sick
If you think you might have the flu and you’re over 65, talk to your doctor about receiving a diagnostic test to confirm the diagnosis. It’s important to do this within the first few days of showing symptoms. No matter how old you are, your doctor can help you manage the illness. If you or someone you love is having trouble breathing, feeling pressure or pain in the chest, showing new confusion, experiencing an inability to wake or stay awake, or showing bluish lips or face, call 9-1-1 immediately.
While taking protective measures to avoid infection is an effective way to stay healthy during flu season, one of the most critical steps you can take is getting your flu shot. Ask your doctor if the flu shot is right for you.
Here’s what you should know about this extremely important vaccination from Dr. Lindquist.
1. The flu is preventable
The flu virus is different every year. That’s why getting your annual flu vaccine is your best defense in preventing the flu and staying healthy.
Every year, a panel of medical experts examines the types of flu viruses that are currently circulating, as well as the types that people came down with last year. This helps them develop a safe vaccine for whatever flu strains are most prevalent that year. While the flu shot is not 100% effective, it is the best way to protect yourself against the flu.
2. Some people are more at risk than others
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people who get the flu will get better in a couple of weeks. Some can develop complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or sinus or ear infections.
The following groups of people are at risk for more serious flu-related complications that require hospitalization, so it’s especially critical to get the vaccine if you or someone you love:
- Is under 5 years of age, especially those younger than 2
- Is over age 65
- Is pregnant or up to two weeks postpartum
- Is residing in a nursing home
- Has a health condition such as asthma, chronic lung disease, diabetes, or heart disease
- Is immunocompromised, including those who are receiving chemotherapy
3. You need to plan for it
The flu vaccine can take up to two weeks to work, so it’s important to get vaccinated as soon as possible. You can get your flu shot at no cost when you present your member ID at your in-network doctor’s office, retail health clinic, or pharmacy.
- For most covered members (who have individual insurance or are covered by their employer’s plan), if you pay out of pocket for your flu shot, you can be reimbursed for the cost. Learn more on your healthcare provider’s website.
- Medicare Advantage members are covered for a flu shot once per year. If you received your flu shot at an out-of-network provider and paid out of pocket, you can apply for reimbursement by sending in the Influenza Vaccine Reimbursement Form available at ibxmedicare.com.
It’s also important to remember that the flu and COVID-19 may present similar symptoms but are very different viruses. It is more important than ever to stay up to date with immunizations that are available to keep you healthy, including your yearly flu shot – and possibly an annual COVID-19 vaccination in years to come. Let’s all keep each other safe this flu season.