As scientists and researchers continue working on clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines, there is something even more important for individuals to receive this year – their annual flu vaccination.
Although about 64 percent of Americans got a flu vaccine last season, about a third of the population remained unprotected from the flu. As many as 20 percent of people in the United States come down with the flu each year.
“Flu shots can increase the chance of staying healthy through the winter months,” said Michelle Gourdine, MD, interim Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President, Population Health & Primary Care for University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS). “Getting vaccinated will not only help keep you healthy, but it can help to prevent you from getting others sick, too. Vaccinations this year are more important than ever, not only for individuals to reduce their risk from flu but also to help conserve potentially scarce health care resources.”
Each year in the United States, flu, or influenza, kills between 12,000 and 60,000 individuals and leads to hospitalization for more than 200,000 people. It is recommended that everyone six months and older get a yearly flu vaccine. According to the CDC, during 2018-19, flu vaccination prevented an estimated 4.4 million influenza illnesses, 2.3 million influenza-associated medical visits, 58,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations and 3,500 influenza-associated deaths.
“The best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated every year,” said Colin Ward, DrPH, MHS, VP of population health and interim chief operating officer of University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health (UM UCH). “Unfortunately every year there are individuals who don’t get vaccinated against the flu, some get very ill, and tragically some die from what is generally a preventable illness.”
More information about the flu and vaccines is available on the UMMS Flu webpage at https://www.umms.org/community/flu-shot. UM UCH is holding a free, drive-thru community flu vaccination clinic on Tuesday, Sept. 29, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Forest Hill VEIP station (1631 Robin Circle) for individuals ages 12 and up. No appointment is necessary.
Common Flu Vaccine Questions & Answers
- Do I need a flu shot if I got one last year?
Yes. The flu virus changes, so a vaccination is needed each year to protect you from the year’s most common flu type.
- Will I get the flu from the flu shot?
No. You cannot get the flu from the flu shot. While most people feel fine after the shot, some may develop a mild fever or feel tired for a day or two. This is your body’s normal response, working to protect you.
- If I get the flu shot, does that mean I will not get the flu?
No. The flu shot is not 100 percent effective, but it does greatly lower your risk of getting the flu. There are many different types of the flu virus, and the shot doesn’t protect you against all of them. Each year, the World Health Organization identifies three or four types most likely to be spread for that year’s flu season to include in the flu shot.
- Does the vaccine protect me right away?
No. It takes about two weeks for the shot to start working in your body, so you may still catch the flu after you have the shot.
While flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses and some of the symptoms are similar, they are caused by different viruses. This CDC webpage has detailed information highlighting similarities and differences between flu and COVID-19.
About University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health
University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health includes the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center and the Patricia D. and M. Scot Kaufman Cancer Center on its Bel Air campus, the Klein Family Harford Crisis Center in Bel Air offering services for behavioral health and the Senator Bob Hooper House in Forest Hill, an assisted living facility that specializes in hospice. The University of Maryland Harford Memorial Hospital has been operating in the community for over a century and is located in Havre de Grace. The leading health care system and largest private employer in Harford County, UM Upper Chesapeake Health offers a broad range of health care services, specialty care, technology and facilities to the residents of northeastern Maryland.