While COVID-19 booster shots are dominating news headlines at the moment, results of a noteworthy U.S. study by the Hospitalized Adult Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Network (HAIVEN), was recently published in Clinical Infection Diseases. 

Flu Shot Timing 

Examining the timing of receiving the influenza vaccine, comparative to flu-associated hospitalizations across more than 5,500 adult study participants, this newly discovered data is congruent with other findings in past and recent studies. 

The takeaway? A one or even a two month lag in getting an annual influenza vaccine has the ability to improve protection effectiveness by anywhere from 10% to 20%. 

Clinicians concur that the medical community should keep following the vaccination recommendations of receiving the flu shot by late October. Epidemiologist and influenza expert at the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Jill Ferdinands, suggests that postponing the vaccine by a couple of months warrants consideration, “if [it] doesn’t encroach on the annual influenza season, delay vaccine delivery, or reduce vaccine uptake.” 

Avoiding a Twindemic 

Another recent study suggests that receiving a flu shot could provide some protection against extreme effects of the coronavirus. 

If you get infected with the COVID-19 virus, and you’ve previously received a flu shot within the same season, then according to the study you are not likely to endure severe infection, suffer a stroke, be burdened by blood clots, or need to be treated at an intensive care unit. 

The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Dr. Devinder Singh shared, “the global population may benefit from influenza vaccination, as it can dually act to prevent a coronavirus and influenza ‘twindemic,’ which could potentially overwhelm health care resources.” 

Experts are not completely sure why the flu shot may offer protection from some of the more dire COVID-19 symptoms. However, one hypothesis is that it equips the immune system to lower the chances of body-wide distress that is commonly detected with the flu.

Top Influenza Vaccine Myths 

Despite the fact that flu vaccinations successfully prevented approximately 7.5 million illnesses from 2019 to 2020 — not to mention avoiding hospitalizations and deaths — still myths run rampant when it comes to the influenza vaccine. 

One common myth that circulates every year is that someone can actually contract the flu by getting the flu shot. The truth is that the vaccine does not have an active virus, therefore you cannot “get” the flu. 

While many experience no side effects, it’s true that some folks do experience mild side effects that could be confused for flu-like symptoms. The most typical indications range from minor swelling or soreness at the injection site, a low grade fever, or a subtle headache. With that said, a few days of light discomfort is a small price to pay when experiencing the worst that a flu virus can bring, such as extraordinary fatigue, high grade fevers, and body aches for several days. 

Another typical folklore is that among people who historically don’t get the flu, they don’t need to bother getting the vaccine. The truth is that a clean bill of health in your past does not promise a future without a flu. Because strains transform year after year, season after season, we are all at risk to come down with the flu, particularly without receiving the vaccine. And much like we hear the message when it comes to spreading COVID-19, the same is true for influenza — when you don’t get the vaccine but you do catch the virus — you are a carrier and can infect others. 

For more information on the flu, vaccines, and other relevant healthcare content, be sure to check out the Auxo Medical blog archives.