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Flu shot facts: what you need to know

It may be your best shot to stay healthy.

This article was last updated Nov. 16, 2023.

It’s as predictable as the changing seasons — with the start of fall and winter comes flu season and an increase in respiratory viruses. Experts agree that getting a flu vaccine remains the best way to protect External Site yourself and your loved ones from serious illness caused by the virus.

Habits like washing your hands frequently, staying away from people who are sick and taking care of your immune system are all important ways to avoid the flu this season, but doctors say the best thing you can do to protect yourself is get the flu shot annually External Site.

Five reasons to get the flu shot

why get the flu shot

Here are a few reasons why it’s important for you to get your flu shot External Site every year, according to the CDC.

  1. Fewer sick days.

    The vaccination prevents the flu or lessens the severity of the flu, which means you spend less time cooped up in the house and more time enjoying life.

  2. Saves you money.

    A flu shot reduces the chances of flu-associated hospitalizations or doctor visits, which reduces copays or hospital bills that may have been associated with catching the virus.

  3. Pregnancy protection.

    Getting a flu shot while pregnant protects women during and after their pregnancy and can also protect the baby several months after birth. Research shows that flu shots are safe for pregnant women External Site. Just talk to your doctor before getting any vaccine.

  4. Preventive care is your first line of defense

    Preventive care and regular visits to your primary care provider can help you feel better faster and avoid more serious illness. Find out how to stay ahead of illness, plus more, when you visit the preventive care section of Blue.

  5. Helps those with chronic conditions.

    By getting vaccinated, those with cardiac conditions, diabetes or chronic lung diseases see a significant reduction in hospital or doctor visits.

  6. Protects the people around you.

    Even if you don’t show flu-like symptoms, the virus can still be contagious to those around you.

How does a flu shot work?

The flu is caused by the virus called influenza. It is an unpredictable virus that can mutate or change, which is why various strains of the vaccine are created. When you receive the flu shot, your body is being introduced to a non-infectious version of the virus. That bit of the influenza virus tells your body to create flu antibodies. Antibodies are the proteins in your body that fight against illnesses. The vaccine tricks your body into fighting the flu without making you feel sick.

Is it safe?

Yes. Being a non-infectious version of the flu virus means that the vaccine cannot give you the flu. It is the best possible way to protect yourself and others from getting the virus.

The more people who get vaccinated, the quicker we can stop the spread of the flu in our communities, homes, schools and workplaces this fall.

When should you get a flu shot?

The CDC says you can get vaccinated throughout the fall. Kids six months through eight years of age may need two doses of the vaccine, so getting the vaccination early in the season may be even more important for that age group.

Ideally, you should get the flu shot before influenza activity picks up in your community, but as long as the flu virus is circulating, vaccination should continue. Talk to your primary care provider if you need to get the shot later in the season.

Triple coverage: flu, RSV and COVID-19

Vaccines and immunizations for three major respiratory viruses — COVID-19, flu and RSV — are available in the U.S. now. People six months of age and older are encouraged to get vaccinated against flu and COVID-19. Infants, young children and individuals who are either pregnant or over the age of 60 are also are encouraged to get immunized against RSV, for which there are three new treatments in 2023.

According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines can be administered at the same time External Site as the flu shot. Getting both vaccinations can help protect vulnerable populations most at-risk for severe illness and the health care system. RSV immunizations can be administered at the same time or separately.

Get vaccinated for free!

Flu vaccines are typically covered at 100 percent by Wellmark health plans. As always, before getting a vaccine, log in to myWellmark® to check your benefits Secure Site and be sure to use an in-network health care provider.

Check out our "Get a clue about the flu" series

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