Flu shots have always been a very controversial topic. Many people wholeheartedly believe in getting a flu shot, while others do not see the value in it. I have always been someone in the middle. I have gotten flu shots in the past but I've skipped plenty of years, too. Whether or not you're pro-flu shot, it's still very important to know about it. This year is especially important because we are already dealing with a pandemic and we have no idea how this flu season could be because of COVID-19.
The University of Kentucky is requiring all on-campus students to get a flu shot by November 1, 2020. The shot is completely free — I went and got mine the week it was offered. I'm diving into all things flu shots 2020 and what you should know about it.
First off the "flu," or influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. It can go on to cause hospitalization and even death in serve cases. There are two types of influenza — Type A and Type B. They both routinely spread throughout the year from person to person. "Flu season" is typically from fall into the winter — the typical spike is between December and February with some spikes happening in May each year.
The best preventative measure against the flu is to be vaccinated each year. The CDC recommends everyone above the age of six months be vaccinated yearly for the flu, generally in September or October. Of course, everyone has their own opinions on whether or not they should get it and of course, it is not required. But it is a recommendation by medical professionals.
How well a flu vaccine works varies from year to year, depending on the strain of flu and the strain provided in the shot.
The CDC monitors this yearly to check how effective it is. The CDC is really recommending being vaccinated this year because it is predicted that COVID-19 and the flu will spread this winter and the hospitals are going to be very overwhelmed with both flu and COVID patients. It's better to be safe and get a vaccine. Flu vaccines are proven to reduce the risk of getting flu-like illnesses and being hospitalized or dying. It can also save healthcare resources for the care of patients with COVID-19. This year's flu vaccine was updated to match the viruses that are predicted to circulate in the U.S.
Here is a list of what is included in this year's 2020-2021 vaccine found on the CDC website.
- The egg-based H1N1 vaccine component was updated from an A/Brisbane/02/2018 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus to an A/Guangdong-Maonan/SWL1536/2019 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus.
- The cell- or recombinant-based H1N1 vaccine component was updated from an A/Brisbane/02/2018 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus to an A/Hawaii/70/2019 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus.
- The egg-based H3N2 vaccine component was updated from an A/Kansas/14/2017 (H3N2)-like virus to an A/Hong Kong/2671/2019 (H3N2)-like virus.
- The cell- or recombinant-based H3N2 vaccine component was updated from an A/Kansas/14/2017 (H3N2)-like virus to an A/Hong Kong/45/2019 (H3N2)-like virus.
- The B/Victoria lineage vaccine component was updated from a B/Colorado/06/2017 (B/Victoria lineage)-like virus to a B/Washington/02/2019 (B/Victoria lineage)-like virus.
- The B/Yamagata lineage vaccine component was not updated.
Whether you believe in the flu vaccine or not we all need to protect ourselves and those around us who are potentially high risk.
Many people believe that getting the flu shot means they'll get the flu — this is actually a myth proven to be false by medical experts. It is biologically impossible for anyone to get the flu from the actual vaccine because the vaccine is made up of dead viruses — no one is getting injected with a live virus. The proteins, taken from the surface of a killed virus are actually enough to rev up someone's immune system and make it stronger.
Some individuals who get the vaccine complain they got sick after it, but they're confusing the symptoms with a cold. This does not necessarily mean you got sick from the vaccine. Most individuals get the flu vaccine around a time when most people have cold-like allergies. So that stuffy nose you got does not mean the flu shot wronged you — maybe it's just seasonal allergies. Also, once you get the vaccine it takes two to three weeks to be fully effective in fighting off any potential flu-like viruses. It is still possible to get the flu during this time frame. A reasonable worry about the vaccine may come from people with an egg allergy, but doctors will be able to recommend alternative vaccines or options to cover that concern.
Whatever your current stance on the flu vaccine is, it is still important to be informed about it. Yes, the vaccine is never 100% accurate but it could potentially help you or the people are around. This year is a critical time to remain healthy because of COVID-19, so whether you get the vaccine or not it is important to recognize the flu could be very serious this year.
If you are like me and your college is requiring flu shot vaccines, then it is more important now than ever to know the facts about the vaccine. Being educated on what is being put into your body is important and helps you know that the vaccine is safe and could help you and others. Do your part in keeping everyone safe.