What You Should Know About the Flu Season 2020

Fran
Lucy Lazarony
September 22, 2020

Influenza viruses typically circulate in the United States from late fall through early spring. And most people who become ill with the influenza infection, commonly known as the flu, recover without serious complications. However, influenza can be associated with serious illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths, particularly among older adults, very young children, pregnant women and persons of all ages with chronic medical conditions. And routine annual influenza vaccination for people aged six months and older who do not have contraindications has been recommended by the Center for Disease Control since 2010.

Effectiveness of the Flu Vaccine

The effectiveness of an influenza vaccine depends on several factors including the age and health of the recipient and the type of vaccine administered.

According to the CDC, during six influenza seasons 2010 and 2011 through 2015 and 2016, the influenza vaccination prevented an estimated 1.6 million to 6.7 million illnesses, 790,000 to 3.1 million outpatient medical visits, 39,000 to 87,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 to 10,000 respiratory and circulatory deaths in the United States.

In the severe 2017 and 2018 flu season, vaccination prevented an estimated 7.1 million illnesses, 3.7 million medical visits, 109,000 hospitalization and 8,000 deaths.

Benefits of Flu Vaccination

There are many benefits for a flu vaccination. A vaccination can keep you from getting sick with the flu and can help you get back on your feet sooner if you do get sick with the flu.

A flu vaccination can help you and your family members reduce the risk of serious flu illness and flu complications. A flu vaccination helps protect people around you including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness and complications due to age or chronic health conditions.

Getting a flu vaccination protects women during and after pregnancy. A flu vaccination also significantly reduces a child’s risk of dying from the flu.

When Do I Get a Flu Shot?

When should you get a flu shot for the upcoming flu season? The CDC recommends that your family get a flu shot in September or October. Because it takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to provide protection it is a good idea for you and your family to get vaccinated before the flu begins to spread throughout your community.

Getting the flu vaccine later in the flu season is still beneficial and can protect your family from serious flu illness and complications but the earlier the better.

Flu Doses for Young Children

Some children six months through 8 years of age will require two doses of flu vaccinations for protection against the flu. Because the doses must be given at least four weeks apart, children who need two doses of flu vaccine should start the vaccination process as soon as the flu vaccine is available. This way they will have as much vaccination protection as possible when the flu begins spreading in their community.

Types of Flu Vaccines

Every year new flu vaccines are created to help protect against the flu. According to the CDC, vaccine options for the 2020-2021 flu season include standard dose flu shots, high-dose flu shots, which are only recommended for people 65 years and older, and flu shots made with virus grown in cell culture instead of eggs.

A fourth kind of flu shot is the live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), which is made with weakened flu virus and that is given by nasal spray. LAIV is only recommended for healthy people who are not pregnant and who are between the ages of 2 and 49 years old.

Flu shots are made from either flu viruses that have been deactivated or killed or from a single gene from a flu virus. Flu shots create an immune response without causing a flu infection.

Side Effects of Flu Shots

Some people experience mild side effects after taking a flu shot. These side effects include a sore arm, a headache, muscle aches and low fever. These side effects usually begin after the shot and last one or two days. The most common side effects are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the flu shot was given.

Why Do I Have Flu Symptoms After My Flu Shot?

It is possible to become exposed to influenza viruses, which cause the flu, shortly before getting vaccinated or during the two-week period after vaccination when the body is developing immune protection for the flu. As a result, someone could become ill with the flu before protection from the flu vaccine takes effect.

Where Do I Get a Flu Shot?

The doctor that you regularly see can give you a flu shot.

And local pharmacies, clinics and community organizations give out flu shots as well.

Costco, CVS, Walmart, Walgreens, Kroger, Rite Aid and Safeway are among the pharmacies offering flu shots.

Most colleges offer free flu shots to students. Military veterans can get a flu shot at their nearest VA health care facility. Many county health departments offer flu vaccinations as well.

How Much Does a Flu Shot Cost?

A flu shot can be free or it can cost $50 or more.

Discounted flu shots are available at many pharmacies and free and low cost flu shots are available at clinics, community organizations and public health departments.

If you have health insurance or Medicare Advantage, you may be able to get a flu shot from your local doctor’s offer or pharmacy for free. Just be sure to make an appointment ahead of time if you can.

When to Seek a Doctor’s Care for the Flu

If you become ill with influenza-like symptoms which may include fever, body aches, sore throat, chills, runny or stuffy nose, nausea or vomiting, stay home and avoid contact with other people.

If your symptoms worsen, you may need to see a doctor. Emergency warning signs for adults are difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting and flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with a fever and a cough.

Children with the flu should be watched for these worsening symptoms. The emergency warning signs for children are fast breathing or trouble breathing, bluish or gray skin color, not drinking enough fluids, severe or persistent vomiting, not waking up or interacting normally, being so irritable that the child doesn’t want to be held and flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and a cough.

The Flu Season and COVID-19

In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. The common signs and symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever and cough, can also occur with the flu. According to the CDC, the extent that COVID-19 will circulate over the course of the 2020-2021 influenza season is unknown. Getting the influenza vaccine for people aged six months and older can help reduce the prevalence of the illness caused by influenza and reduce symptoms that might be confused with COVID-19.

Efforts to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 such as stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders have led to a decrease in the use of routine, preventative medical services including immunization services.

Ensuring that routine vaccination is maintained during COVID-19 pandemic is essential for protecting individuals and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases and outbreaks, according to the CDC.

Routine vaccination prevents illnesses that lead to unnecessary medical visits and hospitalizations. So stay safe this flu season and get your flu shot.

Buying a New Health Insurance Plan During Open Enrollment

Are you ready for the open enrollment period for a new health insurance plan? The dates, Sunday, Nov. 1 through Tuesday Dec. 15, will be here before you know it.

Before taking a close look at the health plans, review your medical expenses over the past year.

How often have you seen a doctor? Do you have a condition that requires a specialist? Are you taking prescription drugs? How much is your prescription drug bill costing you per month? Have you been healthy? Have you had health issues in the past year? How are you feeling now?

How often do you plan to see a doctor in the next year? Do you have any recurring issues that need attention? Once you get a handle on your healthcare needs it will be easier to choose a health plan that is right for you.

Examine the costs of the health plan. How much will it cost you to visit a doctor or a specialist? How much are co-pays and deductibles? The co-pay is the amount you pay for each of your doctor visits. The deductible is the amount you pay for covered healthcare services before insurance starts to pay, if you don’t have an HMO. So, with a PPO, if you have $3,000 deductible, you would pay the first $3,000 of covered services out of your own pocket. Once you pay your deductible in full, you usually only pay co-pays for covered health services.

Health plans with higher deductibles tend to have lower monthly premiums than plans with lower deductibles. So take a look at your monthly budget and weigh the pros and cons of each health plan carefully. As always, keep an eye on the services that you need the most. You want the plan that meets the healthcare needs for you and your family. Is the doctor you see covered in the health plan? What hospital is covered in the plan? How extensive is the plan’s network of providers and how close are they to where you live?

How are prescription drugs handled in a health plan? How are visits with specialists? Will you need to change healthcare providers to be part of a plan’s network? Is that a change you are willing to make or would you rather keep your doctors? Weigh the pros and cons of each plan, zeroing on the cost and the kind of services most important to you and your family. Take some time to mull over your choices. This is an important decision. You want to choose the plan that best meets your medical needs at a price you can afford.

Will a health maintenance organization (HMO) or a preferred provider organization (PPO) health plan work best for you? A HMO plan is an affordable option if you don’t mind having your medical care guided by a primary care physician. With HMO plans if you want to see a specialist, you will need to get a referral from your primary care physician. With HMO plans, you typically have lower monthly premiums.

With PPO plans, you tend to have higher monthly premiums in exchange for flexibility in the providers that you use. You don’t need a referral to see a specialist and your out of pocket costs tend to be higher than with a HMO. And while premiums and out of pocket costs for HMO plans are usually lower than a PPO plan, the provider network for a HMO is less expansive so you have less choice for your healthcare services.

With a HMO plan, you might have a low deductible or even a no deductible health plan. All these cost advantages make HMOs a good choice for someone interested in keeping medical costs low. But families who wish to have more choice of providers for their medical needs may find the broad network of providers they are looking for in a PPO plan. Will a HMO plan or a PPO plan best meet the needs of your family? Take some time to review your options.

Don’t rush the decision-making process. Check out different kinds of plans. Review prices and the depth and breadth of services. Take detailed notes so you understand what each plan has to offer. You are looking for a plan best suited to your healthcare needs and to the needs of your family. And don't worry. If your healthcare needs should change in the upcoming year, you can always change health plans during the next open enrollment period.

Get a Free Health Insurance Quote Online Now.

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