What to know about vaccinations this fall

It’s that time of year again – when runny noses may be met with a slight moment of panic. Is it just a runny nose — or something worse?

One of the best ways to help you stay healthy for fun, fall activities is to ensure your vaccinations are up to date. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends those who are eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination, if they haven’t already. Along with that, getting an annual flu vaccination may help you prevent or reduce the severity of a flu illness.

Family smiles while taking a selfie on a park bench Family smiles while taking a selfie on a park bench

About half of the U.S. population received the flu vaccine in 2020, helping to reduce the severity of flu illnesses, in addition to reducing outpatient illnesses, hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions — especially crucial, due to the ongoing stress on health care systems.

With so much information swirling on vaccinations, here are five things to keep in mind this fall.

1.     The flu vaccine is safe. With rare exceptions, the CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older should get an annual flu shot. This includes pregnant women and those with an egg allergy.

2.     The flu vaccine can prevent or reduce the severity of flu illness. How well the flu vaccine works can change from year to year. Nonetheless, vaccines can reduce the risk of flu illness by 40% to 60%. The flu vaccine can also reduce the chance of severe illness, resulting in hospitalization. From 2019-2020, the CDC estimated flu vaccination prevented 105,000 flu-related hospitalizations.

3.     The flu vaccine doesn’t increase your risk of getting COVID-19. There is no evidence that getting a flu vaccine increases your risk of contracting COVID-19.

4.     You can — and should — get both the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine. Both vaccines are safe to use together and may be given at the same time. The flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine may help protect those around you from getting seriously ill, including those who are more vulnerable, such as babies or those with chronic health conditions.

5.     You can’t “catch the flu” from a vaccine. The vaccine contains an inactive virus and cannot give you the flu. With that said, it can take a week or two for the vaccine to take effect.

“An annual flu vaccine is the best way to help protect yourself and your family against the flu,” said Dr. Jessica Bartell, chief medical officer of population health at UnitedHealthcare. “With both flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 spreading this season, it may be more important than ever.”

In the meantime, there are other things you can do this flu season to help take care of yourself, the ones you love and your community:

  • Avoid close contact with others who are sick
  • Stay at home, if you are sick                                      
  • Cover your mouth or nose when sneezing or coughing
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly

If you have any questions about the flu or the flu vaccine, talk with your primary care physician.