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Need your annual flu vaccine? Get the shot, not the mist

October 4, 2017

To keep from getting influenza (flu), it is recommended that you get an annual flu vaccine. It’s important to know the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the vaccination via a flu shot, not to use the nasal spray (FluMist) vaccine.

“This recommendation comes from the fact that the flu shot is a better match to protect you against the most common flu viruses that are expected this flu season,” says Dr. David Pautz, senior medical director at Blue Cross.

With flu season just around the corner, we asked Dr. Pautz about the most common questions people ask about the flu vaccine.

Who should get the flu shot? Does everyone need it?

Everyone should get a flu shot to protect themselves from the influenza virus.

It is especially important that children, seniors, pregnant women, and anyone with a compromised immune system or chronic disease get the vaccine, as they are at higher risk, making them more vulnerable to experience more severe symptoms if they catch the flu.

When should I get my flu shot?

Now is a good time of year to think about getting in for your annual flu shot. It will take about two weeks after your flu shot to be fully protected, so you’ll want to get in before it starts to spread in your community. If you wait until people around you are starting to catch the flu, you’ll run a higher risk of getting sick before the vaccine has a chance to protect you.

As a reference, the flu season usually hits in October or November and can run into May. The peak period is generally between December and February.

Where can I get a flu shot?

There are many places to get a flu shot. You can go to your doctor’s office. Also, many pharmacies, clinics, retail clinics, and public health offices provide flu shots. Some workplaces even offer onsite flu shots.

Will the flu shot protect you from all forms of influenza?

Flu vaccines will protect you against three or four of the most common strains of the flu. So, while this will make the likelihood of your getting sick lower, it does not guarantee that you will not get the flu, just significantly lowers your chances.

How do I know how bad the flu season will be this year?

While the flu season occurs every year, there’s not a good way to predict how severe it will be. The length, severity and timing all vary from one year to another.

Will my health insurance cover it?

Blue Cross health plans provide coverage for the flu shot for the 2017-2018 flu season. The FluMist nasal spray is not covered. The flu shot is considered preventive care, so it is usually covered by your health plan at no cost to you. To check your coverage, you should call the number on the back of your member ID card.

Learn more

More answers to common questions about the flu shot can be found on bluecrossmn.com.

Frequently asked questions about the 2017-2018 influenza season can be found on the CDC website.

About David Pautz

David Pautz, M.D. is the senior medical director for government programs at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. He has been with the company since 2005. Prior to that he spent more than 25 years as an internist and geriatrician.

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