Five questions about the flu vaccine answered

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Flu season is here. It begins in October and continues into the spring. This season could be unpredictable because last year fewer people than normal were infected with flu. That means more people are at risk this year, especially since COVID restrictions are greatly lessened compared to last year. That’s why getting your flu vaccine is important. 

Dr. Jason Whateley, primary care physician with McLaren Port Huron, answers five common questions about flu vaccination.

1. What is the best way to be protected from the flu?
Getting vaccinated every year is the best way to protect yourself and others from the flu. Other measures include staying away from others if you are ill, covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and washing your hands well and often.

2. Who should be vaccinated?
The CDC recommends that those who are at increased risk for developing flu related illnesses should be vaccinated. They include infants, children, pregnant women, adults with chronic diseases and senior citizens. 

3. Can the flu vaccine give you the flu?
Flu vaccines cannot cause flu illness. Flu shots either contain inactive virus, meaning the virus is no longer infectious, or a particle designed to look like the flu virus to your immune system. Some people do not feel well after getting the flu vaccine and report side effects such as pain, redness or swelling at the injection site, low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches. These usually begin soon after vaccination and last 1-2 days.

4. When is the best time to be vaccinated?
September and October are the ideal times to be vaccinated. This gives your body time to develop flu antibodies (about two weeks after vaccination) before the flu season is in full swing.

5. Can the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine be given at the same time?

Yes. The CDC says it is safe to administer the COVID-19 vaccine with any other vaccine. Each vaccine should be administered in a different injection site. 

If you have any of the following conditions, talk with your doctor before getting the flu vaccine:
A severe allergy to eggs or any ingredient in the vaccine.
Had Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), a neurological disorder that can cause severe paralysis.

Always talk with your health care provider before getting the flu vaccine. He or she can help you decide if vaccination is right for you and which vaccine would be the best for your situation.