Editor’s note: This article reflects data that is subject to change each year. For updated influenza data, visit cdc.gov/flu.
Every year the influenza (flu) vaccine is updated to better match the viruses that will likely be circulating that year. While determining how well a flu vaccine works is challenging, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies supported the conclusion that flu vaccination benefits public health, especially when the flu vaccine is well matched to circulating influenza viruses.
Marshfield Clinic Health System will offer offer flu vaccines appropriate for age and health conditions of all patients in the 2020-21 season. If a patient would like a certain flu vaccine product, call ahead or talk to your provider about what flu vaccine option is best for you.
Why get vaccinated?
Flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses and influenza-related doctor’s visits each year. During 2018-2019, flu vaccination prevented an estimated 4.4 million influenza illnesses, 58,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations, and 3,500 influenza-associated deaths.
In seasons when the vaccine viruses matched circulating strains, flu vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor with influenza by 40% to 60%.
A 2017 CDC study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases looked at the percentage of the U.S. population who were sickened by influenza. On average, about 8% of the U.S. population gets sick from influenza each season, with a range of between 3% and 11%, depending on the season.
When should you get vaccinated?
You should get a flu vaccine before influenza begins spreading in your community. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against influenza to develop in the body. CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October. Children who need two doses of vaccine to be protected should start the vaccination process sooner, because the two doses must be given at least four weeks apart.
“The sooner someone gets the influenza vaccine, the sooner they can be protected,” said Meranda Eggebrecht, clinical quality nurse specialist at Marshfield Clinic Health System. “We never know when virus activity will increase, so it’s better to be prepared sooner.”
If it is after October, don’t worry. Vaccinations will continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even into January or later.
Where should you get vaccinated?
The Health System offers flu vaccines at primary care locations during flu season. Flu vaccine appointments are preferred, but our locations also offer flu clinics periodically throughout the season to make it convenient for patients and community members to stop in for a flu shot.
With several options on where to get your flu vaccine, Eggebrecht recommends getting your vaccine with your care team or established health system.
“Getting the influenza vaccine with your health care provider allows them to address if there are any other preventive services needed at that time,” she said. “It also allows for your provider to have the vaccination record right away.”
You can prevent the flu
When you receive the flu vaccine, you are not only helping yourself but also helping others around you. CDC reports:
- People with influenza are most contagious in the first three-to-four days after their illness begins.
- Some healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five-to-seven days after becoming sick.
- Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others with influenza viruses for an even longer time.
The time from when a person is exposed and infected with influenza to when symptoms begin is about two days, but can range from about one-to-four days.
Beyond influenza symptoms, complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes.
Visit marshfieldclinic.org/flu for more information and available flu clinic dates.