3 Reasons to Get an Early Flu Shot This Year

Laura Del Guerra, RD, CDE, Take Control Health Coach

Tuesday after Labor Day, as I picked up a prescription at the pharmacy, I got a flu shot. I typically never think about getting vaccinated before mid-October, and some years I have even skipped getting vaccinated.  However, there is nothing typical about 2020. Getting an early flu vaccination is more important this year than ever. Here are three reasons why:

#1: Help prevent a “twindemic.”  This term was coined in August and refers to a threat of both COVID and flu cases rising together during fall and winter. As a nation, we are trying to prevent this from happening. Early flu vaccinations will hopefully blunt this effect, with a goal of decreasing hospitalizations from the flu and preserving critical hospital beds for those with COVID.  

#2: Protect your COVID social bubble.  Over the past six months, most of us have developed a “quarantine bubble” – the limited group of people we socialize with that balances the need for social and emotional interactions, while minimizing the risk of getting COVID. Your small group may contain a wide age range, or people with a chronic medical condition. Your vaccination will not only protect you, but will help protect those in your bubble who are at higher risk of getting the flu.  

#3: It’s harder to find. With many of us still working from home, the flu shot will be less accessible this year. There will likely be no opportunity to get vaccinated at work, and large community vaccination events that normally occur are not being held. So, it is important to take the initiative to go get vaccinated as soon as possible.

A word about side effects. If you avoid the vaccine because you feel like it gives you the flu, there’s reason to re-think your choice. According to several experts, the vaccination simply cannot cause the flu. The flu shot is a killed virus and contains the part needed for your body to mount a response to the flu. If you experience headache, fever, soreness at the injection site, or sore muscles, this is your body working exactly as it should. It is hard at work developing an immune response to the antigens. That flu-like feeling is your body’s way of saying, “I’m ready for the flu.”

It’s important to keep in mind that the flu shot is not a guarantee, rather it is scientists’ best guess about which strains of flu will be circulating this year. It takes about two weeks for immunity to set in. If you are vaccinated and happen to get the flu, you most certainly will have a milder case.

Vaccinations are widely available right now in pharmacies and supermarkets throughout Montana. So, make a plan to get vaccinated now. The last thing you and those you care about need is a case of COVID on top of the flu.