ORLANDO, Fla. – As the world waits for a coronavirus vaccine, doctors are urging everyone to get flu shots before influenza cases in the United States become widespread.
“The earlier you can get it, if you’re thinking about it, just go ahead and get it because it does take some time to build protection,” Dr. Jean Moorjani, MD Pediatrics, at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children said.
Moorjani said typically pediatricians recommend getting the flu shot before Halloween, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many offices recommended the vaccines in September.
Why so early?
Moorjani points to a common misconception about flu shots, saying some patients think simply getting the vaccine will give them the flu.
She admits, some people will get a weaker version of the flu, even after having the vaccine. And if one finds themselves sick with the flu shortly after getting the shot, it’s likely they came in contact with someone carrying the virus sometime in the two weeks it takes to produce antibodies.
“If I got my flu shot this morning and was exposed to somebody who has the flu I can still get sick with the flu, because my body has not produced enough antibodies,” Moorjani said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 188 children died from flu complications. Moorjani points out about 80% of those children did not receive the vaccine. Anyone 6 months or older can safely get a flu vaccine.
“We can figure out who has a higher risk of getting really sick, but then we also see very healthy children who get the flu and die, so that is probably the scariest thing,” Moorjani said.
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Depending on the year, Moorjani said Florida can have a longer flu season. With cases of coronavirus still being reported, she expects some overlap in testing.
“I think that we are going to see a lot more testing in pediatricians' offices just to figure out ‘is this the flu or is this coronavirus?’” Moorjani said.
While some health experts continue to warn of the potential flu season has to overwhelm hospitals, Moorjani said she remains optimistic the safety measures in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus could lead to a less severe flu season.
“The world is waiting for a coronavirus vaccine, but we do have a flu vaccine right now that is safe and is the best protection for the flu,” Moorjani said.
Dr. Raul Pino from the Florida Department of Health in Orange County said there’s already been a small increase in emergency room visits from people experiencing flu-like symptoms.
“So flu season is starting. It is time to get vaccinated. People are starting to experience the flu,and the system will get full blown soon. And, you know, the vaccine needs a few days to be able to develop immunity. So you have to take it well in advance of when the season goes in the high peak,” Pino said.
Watch Kirstin O’Connor’s Getting Results For Your Health reports Mondays on News 6 at 5:30 p.m.