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Atrium Health Navicent Physicians: Vaccine is Your Best Defense Against the Flu

Atrium Health Navicent physicians encourage the community to get vaccinated now

Influenza, commonly called “the flu,” is a contagious respiratory disease that can lead to serious illness, hospitalization or death. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones against influenza is to get vaccinated every flu season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone aged 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine. A 2022 study shows flu vaccination reduces children’s risk of severe, life-threatening influenza by 75 percent. During 2019-2020, flu vaccination prevented an estimated 7.5 million influenza illnesses and 6,300 influenza-associated deaths, according to the CDC.

“With many people still wearing masks during last year’s flu season, the cases of flu were relatively light. This decreased flu activity could lead to a lessened state of immunity within the population. As a result, we could see more flu cases this year and potentially more severe infections,” said Dr. Harry Strothers, chief of Family Medicine at Atrium Health Navicent Primary Care West Macon. “We’re already seeing flu cases in central Georgia. If you haven’t yet gotten your vaccine, contact your primary care provider or visit a pharmacy to get a shot now, especially if you’re over 65 or have a chronic health condition.”

This season, all flu vaccines have been designed to protect against the four flu viruses that research indicates will be most common. The CDC predicts both the flu and COVID-19 viruses will continue to spread, and that it is possible to contract the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. For this reason, doctors at Atrium Health Navicent recommend getting a flu shot as soon as possible, ideally before the end of October. Flu vaccines and COVID-19 vaccines — and COVID-19 booster vaccines — can be given at the same time. In addition to protecting yourself against the flu virus, getting a flu vaccine helps protect people around you who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications.

Key reasons to get the flu vaccine

• Flu vaccination prevents illnesses, medical visits, hospitalizations and deaths.

• Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions. Flu vaccination has been associated with lower rates of some cardiac events among people with heart disease.

• Vaccinating pregnant women helps protect them from flu illness and hospitalization, and has been shown to help protect babies from flu infection for several months after birth, before babies can be vaccinated.

• Flu vaccination can be life-saving in children. A 2020 study found that during the 2018-2019 flu season, flu vaccination reduced flu-related hospitalization by 41 percent and flu-related emergency department visits by half among children.

• While some people who get vaccinated still get sick, flu vaccination has been shown in several studies to reduce the severity of the illness.

Common questions about the flu vaccine

• Can a flu vaccine give you the flu? No. Vaccines given with a needle (like flu shots) are made with either inactivated viruses, or with only a single protein from the flu virus. The nasal spray vaccine contains live viruses that are weakened so that they will not cause illness.

• What are common side effects from the flu vaccine? The most common side effects from flu shots are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches also may occur. If these reactions occur, they usually begin soon after vaccination and last one or two days. Side effects from the nasal spray flu vaccine may include runny nose, wheezing, headache, vomiting, muscle aches, fever, sore throat and cough. If these problems occur, they usually begin soon after vaccination and are mild and short-lived.

• Do I really need the flu vaccine every year? Yes. A person’s immune protection from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccination is needed to get the best protection against the flu. Additionally, flu viruses are constantly changing, so the vaccine composition is reviewed each year and updated as needed.

• Can getting a flu vaccine make you more susceptible to getting other respiratory illnesses or COVID-19? Flu vaccines are not thought to make people more susceptible to other respiratory infections, and there is no evidence that getting a flu vaccination increases your risk of getting sick from a coronavirus, like the one that causes COVID-19. To schedule an appointment with a primary care physician, visit navicenthealth.org/online-scheduling.

About Atrium Health Navicent

Atrium Health Navicent is the leading provider of healthcare in central and south Georgia and is committed to its mission of elevating health and well-being through compassionate care. Atrium Health Navicent provides high-quality, personalized care in 53 specialties at more than 50 facilities throughout the region. As part of the largest, integrated, nonprofit health system in the Southeast, it is also able to tap into some of the nation’s leading medical experts and specialists with Atrium Health, allowing it to provide the best care close to home – including advanced innovations in virtual medicine and care. Throughout its 125-year history in the community, Atrium Health Navicent has remained dedicated to enhancing health and wellness for individuals throughout the region through nationally recognized quality care, community health initiatives, and collaborative partnerships. It is also one of the leading teaching hospitals in the region, helping to ensure the viability for rural health care for the next generation. For more information, please visit www.NavicentHealth.org