With the coronavirus still flaring up across the country, many people are wondering what the flu vaccine recommendations are for 2021.
In light of the ongoing pandemic, getting a flu shot has taken on even greater importance than in past years. COVID has stretched thin many of the country’s health care resources both in terms of materials and personnel. Keeping the rate of influenza cases low can help prevent what is being called a twindemic – a combined outbreak of the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously.
“It is critical to get the flu shot this year,” Dr. Darrin D’Agostino, executive dean at Kansas City University and Internal medicine physician with a master’s in public health tells Parentology. “Since we do not have immunity to the SARS COV-2 virus, we need to minimize our risks to other viruses, and the flu shot has been proven to be safe. There are multiple ways to get the shot, including nasal and even jet injectors depending on what you can tolerate.”
Who Should Get a Flu Shot?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a flu vaccination for anyone who is six months and older with a few exceptions. Because children younger than six months can still get the flu, it is especially important that their caregivers and household members be vaccinated.
People with allergies to any of the components in the flu vaccine that are life-threatening should not receive one. Although the vaccine contains some egg proteins, the CDC site states, “Severe allergic reactions in people with egg allergies are unlikely.” People with a history of an allergic reaction more severe than hives should receive the vaccine in an inpatient or outpatient medical setting and be supervised by a health care provider who is able to manage any severe allergic reaction that might occur. There is also the option of flu vaccines that do not contain any egg.
Individuals who have had Guillain-Barré syndrome or who are not feeling well should talk to their health care provider before receiving a flu shot.
Can Getting a Flu Vaccine Give a Person the Flu?
“The vast majority of flu vaccines are not live. They cannot give you the flu,” Dr. Sharon Nachman, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, tells Parentology. “You may feel under the weather from the vaccine, but that lasts one day. In the past, when people thought they got the flu from the vaccine, it was because they were already infected or had a similar viral illness that was circulating at the same time as flu virus did — in the winter.”
The most common side effects of the vaccine are:
- Soreness, redness, and/or swelling from the shot
- Muscle aches
When Is the Best Time to Get the Flu Vaccine?
“I recommend everybody begin getting these in September. Usually, it’s September, October. If you get it earlier than that, then you might not have enough immunity at the end of the flu season,” is Dr. D’Agostino’s advice.
Flu vaccines are available through a variety of outlets, including doctor’s offices, hospitals, health departments, pharmacies, and even grocery stores. Some community centers also have days where they offer flu shots.
Getting vaccinated against influenza does not protect anyone from contracting COVID-19, so they should still wear masks, wash hands frequently, maintain social distancing, and avoid crowds.
Flu Vaccine Recommendations 2021–Sources
CDC – Seasonal Influenza