It’s Flu Vaccine Time Again, So Here’s What You Need to Know

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by Ed Tobias |

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A couple weeks ago, my wife and I rolled up our sleeves and got our shots again. No, not the COVID-19 vaccine. We’ve already had two of those, and expect to receive a third before Thanksgiving. The latest shot was a seasonal flu vaccine, which we’ve gotten every year for as long as I can remember.

With all of the attention on COVID-19 vaccines, you may have forgotten about the seasonal flu shot. Please don’t. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that because virus activity was low last flu season, the 2021-2022 season could be more severe than usual. The CDC recommends that everyone be vaccinated, starting at 6 months old. In the U.K., health officials are concerned that seasonal flu activity could be 50% greater than in a typical flu year.

The composition of flu vaccines approved in the U.S. is reviewed each year and updated to match the flu viruses public health officials believe will be circulating. This season, they believe four viruses will be circulating, and the approved vaccines are designed to protect against all of them.

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Are there special considerations for people with MS?

According to guidelines from the American Academy of Neurology, which are summarized on the National Multiple Sclerosis Association’s website, two concerns about flu vaccines are specific to MS. The first is that the live version of the flu vaccine, contained in a nasal spray, should not be used by people who are either currently receiving or have recently received therapies that suppress or modify the immune system. Many MS therapies do that.

The second is that people with MS who are having a relapse should delay getting a flu vaccination until treatment for their relapse is completed or the relapse ends on its own.

Can I get a flu shot and a COVID-19 vaccine together?

My primary care physician said yes. In fact, she told me I could get them both during the same visit, with one shot in each arm. (I wasn’t really up for that, though.)

If you plan to get both, the CDC says you should follow the schedule recommended for each vaccine. That is, if you’re not current with your COVID-19 vaccines, get up to date as soon as possible. And if possible, you should get a flu vaccine by the end of October.

What if I don’t want a flu shot?

OK, I know some of you won’t get a flu shot.

Some people think the flu vaccine can give you the flu. Health officials say it can’t, and I believe them. Some folks say it’s not effective at preventing the flu. The CDC says it’s only 40-60% effective in an average season, but isn’t some protection better than none? 

Whatever your reason, if you’re not going to get a flu shot, you can still help protect yourself and others by doing simple things like washing your hands frequently, sneezing into your arm instead of your hand, keeping surfaces sanitized, venting rooms to keep air circulating, and wearing a mask around others. These are the same things you can do to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

You’re invited to visit and follow my personal blog at www.themswire.com.

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Comments

Leanne Broughton avatar

Leanne Broughton

I also have had the flu shot annually for many years. I did not get the flu in 2020 but otherwise usually get a flu around Feb/Mar. I mostly stay at home, due to mobility issues. I have gotten flus that my husband brought home from work. Many of his coworkers have younger children that always have colds/flu and it is passed to everyone. His work place (a hospital) still has a mandate to wear masks. I hope this continues.

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Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Leanne,

It's always nice to read your comments. February or March seems a bit late to be getting the flu shot. Health officials recommend that people get it in the Fall so that it has time to reach full potency before the flu season really hits. Anyway, a shot anytime is better than nothing. And, of course, masks help prevent the spread of the seasonal flu as well as the virus that causes COVID-19.

Ed

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Claudia Chamberlain avatar

Claudia Chamberlain

I'm on Ocrevus (i.e. no B cells). I only got third Covid vaccine because the doctors were able to quantify that I would receive some immune benefit from my T cells. Do flu shots rely on antigens from B cells or T cells as well?
Thanks!

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Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Claudia,

The seasonal flu vaccines create antibodies specific to that virus. So, they do interact with B and T cells. I'm not a scientist or a healthcare professional and I can't give you a detailed explanation but I found this article that does a pretty good job of explaining what's happening: https://uahs.arizona.edu/blog/2019-10-10/boost-your-immunity-flu-vaccine

Ed

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Adrian Sohn avatar

Adrian Sohn

I got the covid vaccine ( got a booster 2 weeks ago!) and will get the flu shot in about 2 weeks. I'm all for vaccines. They prevent diseases and are much better than antibiotics that sometimes work and sometimes don't, can have side effects etc etc

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Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Thanks for sharing, Adrian. I have an appointment for Moderna #3 on Friday.

Ed

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