7 facts about the flu shot

For many people, getting sick with the flu can cause severe symptoms. And it can put you — or someone you love — in the hospital. The good news is that the flu shot is a safe, proven way to reduce the chances you or someone at risk will get sick with the flu. In fact, the flu shot prevents millions of illnesses every year.

“We’re all still dealing with how COVID-19 has changed our daily lives. But we can’t forget how serious the flu can be,” explains Dr. Andrea Willis, chief medical officer for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

“Both COVID-19 and the flu can cause severe upper respiratory infections. And we aren’t sure yet how it could affect someone to have them at the same time.”

Here are 7 key facts Dr. Willis says everyone should know about the flu shot.

1. Almost everyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot.

There are rare exceptions, so talk to your provider if you have any concerns about allergies or health issues. For example, there are alternatives for people with egg allergies.

2. The flu shot is safe and prepares your body to fight off illness.

The flu shot is a proven way to lower the chances you’ll get sick – or give the flu to someone at risk. You can experience a mild reaction or symptoms like a fever or headache from the flu shot. Those are actually signs your immune system is responding well.

3. Your neighbors need healthy people to get the flu shot, too.

Getting your flu shot is the best way you can reduce your risk of catching the flu and spreading it to others who are at risk, including:

  • older adults,
  • young children,
  • pregnant women, and
  • people with chronic health issues.

Remember, people who can’t get a flu shot rely on the immunity of others to protect them.

4. The flu shot won’t give you the flu.

It takes a couple weeks for the flu shot to protect you. So you could catch the virus before getting your shot and get sick before it starts working. The flu shot may not always prevent the flu, but it can still reduce the severity of the illness. 

5. COVID-19 makes the flu shot as important as ever.

It’s possible to get the flu (or other respiratory illnesses) and COVID-19 at the same time. Experts aren’t sure yet what it would be like to have both at once. That’s another reason it’s important to get a flu shot as soon as possible.

6. Last year’s shot won’t protect you.

The CDC reports a flu shot can reduce the likelihood of catching the flu by 40-50%, which is meaningful because the flu can cause severe complications for many people. But the shot’s protection declines over time and virus strains can change each year, so it’s important not to skip a year. And remember, the shot can take a couple weeks to start protecting you.

7. Flu shots are widely available, often at little to no cost

The flu shot is covered under most health plans at little to no cost. It’s available through most health care providers, pharmacies, and most local health departments, while supplies last.

Keep in mind flu season starts in early fall, but flu shots are usually available in September. The flu shot can take a couple weeks to work, and you could catch it or pass it on before the vaccine starts to protect you, so get your shot as soon as you can.

Hear more from Dr. Willis on why getting a flu shot is more important than ever and visit BetterTennessee.com to learn more.

Ali Whittier, CHES®

Ali joined the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee corporate communications team in 2014 and is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES®) through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC). A native of Iowa, she has more than a decade of experience in health promotion and community engagement, as well as health care communications. When she’s not at BlueCross, she and her husband Spencer are racing their bikes, spending time outdoors or cooking healthy food and treats in their kitchen.

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Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on bcbst.com. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.