02 – Should I get the flu shot?

Are you thinking about getting a flu shot? This year, the medical world is warning that three respiratory infections will be threatening our health: COVIC, flu and RSV. If you’re debating whether or not to get the flu shot, add consideration for another COVID BOOSTER shot.

Read what the Centre for Disease Control (USA) writes about the flu shot.

The Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta, USA, recommends a flu shot for everybody from six-month-old babies on up. The recommendations and available vaccines change slightly each year, so here is their latest update in regard to the flu vaccination for the 2018-2019 flu season. (Much of the information here applies to Canada also.)

What are my options?
There are a few different kinds of flu shots, but most healthy adults don’t have to worry too much about which is which. It’s okay to go with whatever flu shot is at the clinic where you show up.

This year, most shots will be quadrivalent, meaning they protect against four (rather than three) different types of flu. The vaccine versions that are out there include:

  • Regular vaccines delivered with a needle (trivalent or quadrivalent).
  • Regular vaccines delivered with a jet injector, which is held up against your arm and sort of shoves a puff of vaccine through your skin.
  • For older folks (whose immune systems do not respond as well to the regular vaccine), high dose flu shots and flu shots with adjuvant.
  • The nasal spray [ may not be available in Canada but ask your doctor].

So if you can get the needle, you probably should. But if you have needle phobia so bad you would otherwise skip the shot, the nasal spray is better than nothing.

Not everyone can get the spray, though, because it’s made differently than the other vaccines. The nasal spray contains live viruses, but they have been altered so they are weakened, and they also cannot survive at body temperature so they cannot infect your lungs. But because you are technically being infected by a virus when you get the nasal vaccine, the CDC recommends that you not use this option if you’re pregnant, if you’re 50 or older, or if you have a weakened immune system or certain conditions that make you more vulnerable to infection. Get advice from your doctor.

Can’t the flu shot give me the flu?

How much does it cost?
Usually nothing. In Canada, the flu shot is free. It is available through your family doctor and at almost every Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacy. Phone the pharmacy to that they provide the flu shot at that particular store. At the time of publication, Shoppers was providing vaccination to seniors only as it launches this year’s vaccinations.

Does it matter when I get it?
October is the optimum time for the flu shot, long before “somebody coughs flu germs in your face,” but predicting the best time is difficult. Mid October is perfect, because it is often in early November that flu cases start to rise.

If your child is getting the flu vaccine for the first time, they will a different vaccination protocol, likely two doses, given four weeks apart but again check with you family physician. That process is best started in September, since they will not be fully protected until the second shot kicks in—but, again, better late than never.

If you get your shot in November or later, you might end up getting coughed on before the vaccine can give you superpowers. A late shot is still better than none, though, and you can even get a shot toward the end of flu season if supplies are still available.

If you already got your shot in September, that’s fine. The vaccine’s protection does decline over time, but not enough to make a big difference for most individuals.


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