Why You Should Get Your Flu Vaccine This Year and Every Year
Read this article in Spanish.
The focus of my career is to find ways to prevent or reduce infections in patients with weak immune systems. One main way to do that is to make sure that patients with serious illness—and everyone around them—get an annual flu shot.
For a couple of years during the COVID-19 pandemic, the flu was not as prevalent. This was due to physical distancing, handwashing, and wearing masks. Many people did not get the flu vaccine.
With the end of COVID restrictions, though, the flu illness has been spreading just as it did before the pandemic. It is time to take all precautions and get the vaccine as soon as possible.
How this year’s flu season will be different
This year we are expecting the flu to start early and spread quickly. In fact, we already started seeing flu cases.
Families should get their flu shots as soon as possible, ideally between September and October. It is important to get the vaccine each year because the flu virus changes and people lose their immunity over time.
Flu shots for children with serious illnesses
Getting a flu shot is especially important for patients with serious illness. These patients have a high risk of getting an infection. If they get an infection, they usually run a complicated course and can get severely ill.
We tend to think of COVID-19 as more serious than the flu, but the 2 illnesses are similar in their symptoms and how they affect people. They are both respiratory illnesses that can have dangerous complications, especially for children with weak immune systems.
For the 2022–23 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there were 26–50 million flu illnesses with 12–24 million medical visits, 290,000–670,000 hospitalizations, and 17,000–98,000 deaths. Flu vaccinations can help lower the risk of severe illness, hospitalization or death from the flu.
People who are more likely to have complications and be hospitalized from the flu include people who:
- Are age 5 and under
- Are 65 and older
- Have chronic health conditions like lung disease or heart problems
- Are obese
- Are pregnant
- Have weak immune systems
My flu shot recommendations
Everyone 6 months and older should get the flu shot as soon as possible before the flu starts spreading. If you live in the United States, you can use this tool to find flu vaccines near you.
Make sure everyone around the child gets the flu vaccine, especially those in the same household. This forms a circle of protection around the patient.
Ask your care team about how many doses your child needs. Based on research at St. Jude, we recommend that our immunocompromised patients get 2 doses of the flu vaccine to build a good immune response to the virus.
People who have had severe allergic reactions to the flu vaccine in the past should not get the flu vaccine.
Myths about the flu vaccine
Here are 2 common myths around getting the flu vaccine:
- Myth: People with an egg allergy cannot get the flu vaccine.
Fact: The Centers for Disease Control says that, beginning this year, people with egg allergies may get the flu vaccine. They do not need to take extra safety measures, regardless of how severe their egg allergy is.
- Myth: I will get the flu from the flu vaccine.
Fact: The flu shot does not have a live virus in it and cannot give you the flu. If you feel sick after getting the vaccine, that means your body is working to develop protection and immunity, making antibodies to protect you from the flu illness. (Note that patients with weak immune systems should not get the flu mist nasal spray. The nasal spray does contain a weakened live virus.)
You can learn more about flu vaccines and other ways to stop the flu on the Together by St. Jude™ online resource. The most important thing I want people to remember is to get the flu shot as soon as possible, and to make sure that everyone around a patient gets the vaccine as well.
Let’s create a circle of protection around our patients as we protect ourselves.
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