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Safeguarding ourselves from the flu

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels

Written Tanya Terry

The end of October and the beginning of November mark the beginning of the peak flu season, according to Issa Sall.

Sall, a pharmacist at the Rite Aid at the corner of Fenton and Atherton roads in Flint, recently talked to the Courier about the importance of getting a flu shot as soon as possible, for those who have not.

During 2019-2020, the last flu season prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, flu vaccination prevented an estimated 7.5 million influenza illnesses, according to the CDC. It prevented 3.7 million influenza-associated medical visits, 105,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations and 6,300 influenza-associated deaths, the CDC also noted on their website.

According to Sall, the end of October to November is when he starts seeing people in the area come in with prescriptions for flu infections.

In addition, experts are predicting this year could mark the return of a more active flu season.

Sall said this is because the COVID-19 pandemic had caused more isolation over the past couple of years in addition to more mask-wearing. This curbed the number of people who were affected with seasonal influenza.

“Now that things are more open and kids are back in school that can play into a more severe flu season,” Sall stated.

Sall explained flu vaccines make the human body produce an antibody against the virus. It takes about two weeks from the time a person gets the vaccine for this to occur. So, it’s best to get the vaccine before flu outbreaks get too intense.

The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and over get a flu vaccine every year. Sall says there is no cut-off age for when this practice should end.

It is also OK to get a COVID-19 shot at the same time as a person gets a flu vaccine. This can make getting vaccinated more convenient by reducing the number of trips a person needs to take. Since the two vaccines cause two different responses with some overlap, there is no increase in the risk of side effects when a person gets both shots on the same day.

Also, new research cited by multiple sources, including Health Digest and Kaiser Health News, has linked side effects after getting a COVID-19 to a greater antibody response. If this is the case, experiencing side effects may not necessarily be a bad thing.

Although it is recommended a person who had COVID wait 90 days from onset of symptoms to get a COVID vaccine, the wait doesn’t apply to getting the flu vaccine.

“As far as flu vaccine you do not have to delay it if you had COVID,” said Sall.

The CDC points out, flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with certain chronic health conditions. Flu vaccination has been associated with lower rates of some cardiac events among people with heart disease, especially among those who have had a cardiac event in the past year. Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of a flu-related worsening of chronic lung disease (for example, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) requiring hospitalization). In addition, among people with diabetes and chronic lung disease, flu vaccination has been shown in separate studies to be associated with reduced hospitalizations from a worsening of their chronic condition.

More information about who should and should not get a flu vaccine is available here: Who Should and Who Should NOT Get a Flu Vaccine | CDC

Sall said people tend to tell him they get their flu vaccines in December or January.

“It just kind of defeats the purpose. It’s best to get it before then so you have full immunity and are protected before we are in full swing of the flu season.”

Along with many other places in the community, all Flint area Rite Aid stores offer walk-ins as well as appointments for vaccines.

For appointments, visit riteaid.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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