Flu Vaccine FAQs

By Meenakshi Garg, MD

Every year around this time the medical community urges people to get the flu shot. This year, with the pandemic continuing, getting a flu shot is more important than ever before.

We asked Meena Garg, MD, of Emerson Primary Care of Concord about why a flu shot is critical to your health. We are pleased to share her insights:

Why is the flu shot important this year?
Flu shots are even more important this year to protect yourself, your loved ones, and people around you from flu, and to help save critical health care resources for the care of patients with COVID-19.

Who should get the flu shot?
Everyone six months and older should receive a flu shot each year. The flu shot is even more important for pregnant women, young children and anyone with chronic medical conditions like diabetes, asthma, cancer, COPD, HIV/AIDS, kidney/liver/heart disease, and obesity.

When is the flu season?
The exact timing and duration of flu seasons can vary, but influenza activity often begins to increase in October and it peaks between December and February, although flu activity can last as late as May.

Is it too early to get a flu shot?
No, September and October are good months to get vaccinated.

What is the best time to get the flu shot?
September and October is the best time to get the flu shot to help protect you from getting the flu throughout the season.

How effective is the flu shot?
It is not possible to tell exactly how effective the flu vaccine will be this season. How well it works can vary by season, age and health status of the person being vaccinated, and the similarity between the virus in the vaccine and the virus in circulation. Even when the vaccine doesn’t completely prevent the flu, it lessens the severity of the illness and reduces the risk of serious complications requiring hospitalization.

Simply put, getting a flu shot helps prevent you from getting sick and reduces the risk of serious health complications, including hospitalization.

What are the side effects of the flu shot?
The biggest side effect would be if you do not get the flu shot this year. You do not want to get the flu during the pandemic when the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are so similar. Common side effects from a flu shot include soreness, redness, and/or swelling where the shot was given, headache, fever, nausea, muscle aches, and fatigue.

How does the flu shot help with the COVID-19 pandemic?
The flu shot will not protect you from COVID-19 but it is still important to get vaccinated as the symptoms of flu and coronavirus are very similar. Flu vaccination could reduce symptoms that might be confused with those caused by COVID-19. Preventing the flu and reducing the severity of flu illness and hospitalizations will also preserve essential health care resources needed for patients with COVID-19.

Can you get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time? Will the flu shot help prevent this?
Yes, it is possible to get flu and COVID-19 at the same time. While the flu vaccine cannot protect you from COVID-19, it is still strongly advised to get the flu vaccine as it has been shown to reduce the complications from flu, including hospitalization and death.

What are the benefits to getting a flu shot at your physician office or an urgent care center rather than a pharmacy or retail location?
When you get a flu shot at your doctor’s office or an urgent care center, it gives trained clinicians an opportunity to see you in person and check in about your overall health and well-being during the pandemic. It also gives them an opportunity to review your medical records to see if all of your immunizations are up-to-date or not. If needed, any additional vaccinations can also be given during the visit.

How can people get a flu shot? Do they need a physician order?
Call your primary care provider to schedule a brief appointment to get a flu shot.

Are all staff at Emerson required to get the flu shot?
Yes. Getting a flu shot this season is required for all staff of Emerson Hospital, including medical personnel and office staff.

Is there anyone who should not get a flu shot?
According to the CDC, the majority of people should get a flu shot. Children younger than six months of age and people with severe, life-threatening allergies to previous flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine, which includes gelatin, should not get a flu shot. If you have a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, you should consult your doctor before you get vaccinated. If you have any questions about the flu shot, you should contact your physician.

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Request an Appointment with Dr. Meenakshi Garg

Dr. Meenakshi Garg is a board-certified internal medicine physician at Emerson Primary Care of Concord. Listen to her podcast episode on seasonal affective disorder.

Dr. Garg is currently accepting new patients. Learn more about her or request an appointment.