Kathleen McGraw

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With all the talk about COVID-19, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by all of the changes that the pandemic has brought into our lives, and by what is yet to come. While we do not know exactly what this novel coronavirus has in store for us this winter, we do know a simple, accessible, and affordable way for you to protect your health and the health of those around you: get your annual flu shot, now!

Every year, doctors and public health officials urge the public to get vaccinated against the flu, and this year our simple recommendation is more urgent than ever. In addition to practicing proper hand hygiene, wearing a mask, and socially distancing, you should get your flu shot as soon as possible.

Since this past spring, we have learned that it is possible for patients to be infected with both the regular flu and with COVID-19 – getting one will not protect you from the other. In fact the risk of being ill with both viruses simultaneously, or being infected with one virus after the other could be very bad for your general health, respiratory health, and your overall ability to recover from either illness. While getting a flu shot will not protect you from COVID-19, it will ensure that you do not catch or spread the flu during a time when our hospitals and health clinics are already under strain during this pandemic.

What does a flu shot do?

It is important to know that the flu shot does not contain live flu virus and does not cause you to get the actual flu. “The flu shot is a killed flu virus that consists of only half of the virus—the part you need to make an immune response to,” according to Andrew Pekosz, Ph.D., professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. By introducing the killed virus into your body, your immune system is able to prepare its defense and protect you from the actual flu.

Because the flu vaccine takes about two weeks to become fully effective, it is important to get your shot as soon as possible before flu season heads into full swing.

Who should get vaccinated?

Experts are encouraging everyone who can get vaccinated against the flu to do so. With the exception of infants under 6 months of age and rare cases of adults with critically compromised immune systems, everyone should get a flu shot. Not only will the shot protect you from getting the flu, but it will also help to protect those around you.

When should you get your flu shot?

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While some vaccines can last for years or even a lifetime, the flu vaccine is one that you must get each year. This is because a person’s immune protection from the flu 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 based on which influenza viruses are prevalent at the time.

The American Medical Association states that “September and October are the best times to be vaccinated to achieve immunity throughout the flu season.” That means that the right time for you to get your flu shot is right now!

Where can you get a flu shot?

Because protecting people from the flu is a priority in every community, there are many ways for you to get your flu shot.

1. BMH drive-up flu shot clinic. The clinic is open to all BMH patients, primary care and specialty care (cardiology, orthopaedics, etc.). You must call your provider to schedule an appointment. Walk-ups are not permitted. The drive-up clinic offers you flu shots from the comfort of your car 6 days a week and will run through November 20, 2020.

2. Visit your local pharmacy.

3. If you do not have a Primary Care Provider, please call BMH Centralized Scheduling at 802-251-8777 to learn about clinicians that are currently accepting new patients.

However you choose to get your flu shot, you can know that you have done your part to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community this year.

Kathleen McGraw, MD is the Chief Medical Officer at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, as well as a Hospitalist.