Germwatch: Have You Gotten Your Flu Shot?

Patient receives flu shot.
Flu season is here. Get your flu shot!

Justin Vesser, Pharm. D, pharmacy supervisor at UVA Pharmacy Lee Street, gets nervous when people say it’s going to be a mild flu season. “That’s when I worry that people won’t come in and get their flu shot,” he says.

In the US, flu season starts in October, peaks between December and February and can last as long as May.

But he’s not seeing as many people come in for flu shots as he’d like in order to increase the odds for a mild flu season. “I’d like to see 40-50 people a day, but now we’re getting around 10,” Vesser says.

“We’re doing a lot of education,” he continues, “But people need to know that getting the flu vaccine is the best thing that you can do for your health right now.”

The Flu Shot: Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to get the flu shot?

Yes. “In the past, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) used to recommend that healthcare workers and vulnerable populations like children, the elderly and people with weak immune systems get vaccinated, but the more people who get vaccinated, the more protection those vulnerable people get,” Vesser says.

Today there are more options for people who, in the past, could not get the flu shot. People with severe egg allergies — “If you get deathly ill from eating cooked eggs” — and certain seizure disorders are at some risk, but in those cases, you can ask for the vaccine that isn’t egg-based. Only a small percentage of the population can’t get the flu shot.

Need to get a flu shot?

No appointment needed at UVA Pharmacy Lee Street.

Where can I get the flu vaccine?

“You don’t have to make an appointment with your doctor to get a flu vaccine,” says Vesser. “Pharmacists are trained to give flu vaccines to children aged nine and up, and some pharmacists can give vaccines to children as young as six months.” Local pharmacies, UVA Zion Crossroad Pharmacy, UVA Bookstore Pharmacy and UVA Pharmacy Lee Street offer flu vaccines 24 hours a day, seven days a week during flu season.

At pharmacies, you don’t usually need a prescription, and you don’t need an appointment. Other places you can get vaccinated are:

 How much does the flu vaccine cost?

It depends. “Regardless of how you’re covered medically, they are almost always covered with a low or no copay,” says Vesser. The out-of-pocket cost at UVA is $39, but most healthcare plans cover flu vaccines.

Are there risks to getting the flu vaccine?

All vaccines have risks. “But the illness of flu is worse than the risk associated with the vaccine,” says Vesser. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there, a lot of emotion and some people have had bad experiences.” He urges people who don’t want to get the flu vaccine to talk to a healthcare provider, a pharmacist, public health worker or doctor about their concerns.

“We can protect so many people and their families with the flu vaccine,” he says. “It’s important, simple and convenient.”

The Germwatch series provides information on what’s going around in our community as well as popular reasons for primary care visits.

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