- Flu season has started, but it’s not too late to get vaccinated.
- The shot is easy and cheap to get, and it could be helpful in fighting off the virus this year.
- Even if you’re ok with getting sick, you could spread the flu to more vulnerable people who could have a harder time fighting the infection.
We’re in the thick of flu and cold season — the time of the year when your office might start to sound like a cacophony of sniffles and coughs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone over the age of six months get the flu shot once a year ahead of flu season, which lasts from October to May. But getting it now can still be useful.
William Schaffner, medical director of the nonprofit National Foundation for Infectious Disease told Business Insider that it’s hard for experts to determine how intense this flu season will be.
“Amongst ourselves, we say if you’ve seen one flu season, you’ve seen one flu season,” he said.
But we do know that flu season got an early start this year, so it could peak around now. There are a number of reasons why getting a flu shot is still a good idea, Schaffner said. Here are his five reasons:
1. The southern hemisphere had a rough flu season.
Australia, which heads into summer as the northern hemisphere goes into winter, got hit hard by the flu this year. That’s especially because of the H3N2 strain of the virus. That doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a bad flu season in the US this year, but the 2017 vaccine does protect against that strain, Schaffner said.
“We can’t be sure that that strain will come north, but we anticipate that it might,” he said.
2. Your health isn’t the only thing you should consider.
For many young people with a stable immune system, the flu might be an inconvenience that knocks you out for a few days. But for people with compromised immune systems, or those over 65 whose system might be wearing down as they deal with a chronic condition like heart disease or diabetes, catching the bug could mean a stay in the hospital or a long-lasting hit to their overall health.
So even if you’re willing to get sick, keeping in mind that getting a flu shot could benefit your great aunt, grandmother, or even coworkers.
3. You can’t get the flu from the shot.
“I’m afraid we still hear that. No, you cannot get flu from the flu vaccine,” Schaffner said. According to the CDC, flu shots are either made using an inactive virus that isn’t infectious, or a vaccine that doesn’t contain the virus at all.
What you may feel are some side effects associated with the vaccine. That includes soreness, swelling, redness where the shot was given, a low fever, headache, or muscle aches.
4. The flu vaccine’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing.
Sure, it’d be nice to have a universal flu vaccine that meant you only had to get a shot once in your life. But until scientists crack that puzzle, it’s better to get the yearly jab than have no protection at all.
“We can do an awful lot of good with this pretty good vaccine, because it’s the one we have to use today,” Schaffner said.
5. It’s simple, fast, and often free to you.
There are plenty of ways to get vaccinated for free. Most insurers cover it as a preventive treatment, and Medicare covers the shot entirely. Most drugstore clinics, including Walgreens and CVS, have the vaccines available, so you don’t have to go to a doctor’s office.
“It’s easy, it’s quick, it’s covered by insurance,” Schaffner said.
For the 2015-16 flu season, 41% of adults in the US got the vaccine, while 59.3% of children did. In the past seven years, the flu has sent between 140,000 and 710,000 people to the hospital over the season.