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Answers from doctors to common questions about flu shots, which are especially important this year

This is not the year to risk it. Get a flu shot.

As physicians, we now end each patient visit like this: “I am encouraging all of my patients to get the flu shot this year. With both the flu and the coronavirus going around, it will be a difficult season. Having more than one virus increases your risk of going to the hospital. I don’t want you to get sick. If you don’t normally get the flu shot, this is the year to get it. This is not the year to risk it.”


Here are the most common questions we get asked by patients:


Who should receive the flu shot? All adults and children over the age of 6 months.


When should I get the flu shot? September-November is ideal. The vaccine will last you about six months and will protect you through the worst part of the flu season: (fall and winter.) Once you receive your flu shot, it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to take effect.


Which flu shot should I get? If you are older than 65, you will automatically get the high-dose flu shot to help your body develop an immune response. If you are younger than 65, you will get the regular flu shot.


Do I need a booster? For adults, no. For children, yes. Between ages 6 months to 8 years, two doses are recommended to develop immunity. After a child receives both doses of the vaccine, they should then get one dose annually.


Does the flu vaccine have the coronavirus vaccine in it? No. It does not. The flu vaccine only targets the influenza virus. The coronavirus vaccine is still in development and undergoing trials for safety and effectiveness.


Will I get sick from the flu shot? This is a common misconception. Here’s why: The flu shot is given at the start of fall when common cold viruses begin circulating and seasonal allergies are also in high gear. Due to the similarities in symptoms, people can incorrectly assume an ailment resulted from the flu shot. Aside from this, some people may feel slightly achy for a day after vaccination. This is simply your body building its defenses to fight the flu, but it is not the flu!


Where can I get a flu shot? You can get a flu shot at your doctor’s office or at your local pharmacy. We recommend getting the flu shot at your doctor’s office whenever possible because your doctor is aware of your medical history and your current medical treatments. That said, the Louisville Metro Public Health & Wellness website shows additional locations for flu shots.


How much does a flu shot cost? For most people and their families, the cost should be $0. Required by the Affordable Care Act, most health-insurance plans automatically cover the entire cost of the flu vaccination. Medicare and Medicaid plans also cover the cost. For those without insurance, the pharmacy cost of the flu shot will range between $20 to $70.


We remind patients that we have seen what our world looks like right now without one vaccination. Viruses are constantly changing, and we must protect ourselves from their adaptations. Vaccines expose you to weakened features of the virus so your body will create antibodies to help defend you against the disease. This is the time to take action.


No matter your age, vaccines are a proven way to make your immune system smarter. We would rather see you healthy at home and/or healthy at work than becoming another statistic. Please get your flu shot today.


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Dr. Monalisa Tailor is president of the Greater Louisville Medical Society. Dr. Lewis Hargett is president of Falls City Medical Society, and Heidi Margulis is chair of the Louisville Metro Board of Health. The original version was published by the Courier Journal.

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