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 the sniffles — 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 ensuring you are up to date on your COVID-19 vaccinations or boosters. Along with that, getting an annual flu vaccination may help you prevent or reduce the severity of a flu illness.

“An annual flu vaccine is the best way to help protect yourself and your family against the flu,” said Dr. Donna O’Shea, chief medical officer of population health for UnitedHealthcare.

In 2022, more than half of the U.S. population received the flu vaccine, which helps to reduce the severity of flu illness and in turn lowers hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions.

With so much information swirling on vaccinations, here are four 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 2021-2022, the CDC estimated flu vaccination prevented 22,000 flu-related hospitalizations.
  3. You can — and should — get vaccinations at the same time, including boosters. 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. Check to see if you should get a COVID-19 booster by visiting the CDC website. The RSV vaccine is also available for adults ages 60 and above to prevent severe RSV-associated respiratory illness. The RSV vaccine can be given with the flu vaccine.
  4.  You can’t “catch the flu” from a vaccine. The vaccine contains an inactive or attenuated virus and cannot give you the flu. With that said, it can take two weeks for the vaccine to produce immunity to prevent infections.

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 health care provider. Your health care provider can also help you determine if you should have a COVID-19 booster and an RSV vaccination — and the best timing of those for you.

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