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Flu Season Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

In an effort to help patients stay informed about influenza, we have created the FAQs below from information provided by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH).

Will there be flu with COVID-19 this winter?

While it’s not possible to say with certainty what will happen in the fall and winter, CDC believes it’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading. In this context, getting a flu vaccine will be more important than ever. CDC recommends that all people 6 months and older get a yearly flu vaccine.

Can I have flu and COVID-19 at the same time?

Yes. It is possible have flu, as well as other respiratory illnesses, and COVID-19 at the same time. Health experts are still studying how common this can be. Some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, making it hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Diagnostic testing can help determine if you are sick with flu or COVID-19.

How do I know if I am at high risk for influenza?

This CDC Influenza page features information on the groups of people who are more likely to get serious flu-related complications if they get sick with flu.

Frequently Asked Questions for Pregnant Women

Why does CDC advise pregnant women to receive the influenza (flu) vaccine (shot)?
Getting the flu shot is the single best way to protect against the flu. It is important for a pregnant woman to receive the influenza vaccine. A pregnant woman who gets any type of flu has a greater chance for serious health problems. Compared to non-pregnant women who get the flu, pregnant women who contract influenza are more likely to be hospitalized. Pregnant women are also more likely to have serious illness and death from influenza. When a pregnant woman gets a flu shot, it can protect both her and her baby. Research has found that pregnant women who had a flu shot get sick with the flu less often than do pregnant women who did not get a flu shot. Babies born to mothers who had a flu shot in pregnancy also get sick with flu less often than do babies whose mothers did not get a flu shot.

What if I am pregnant and I get the flu?
Call your doctor right away if you have flu symptoms or if you have close contact with someone who has the flu. Some pregnant women sick with influenza have had early labor and severe pneumonia. If you are pregnant and have symptoms of the flu, take it very seriously. Call your doctor right away for advice and possible antiviral medication.

What can I do to protect myself, my baby, and my family?
Getting a flu shot is the single best way to protect against the flu. Talk with your doctor about getting the 2020-2021 flu shot. The influenza vaccine has been shown to protect both the mother and her baby (up to 6 months old) from the flu.

Talk with your doctor right away if you have close contact with someone who has flu symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe Tamiflu® or Relenza® antiviral medication to help prevent you from becoming sick with the flu.

Is it safe for pregnant women to get a flu shot?
The seasonal flu shot has been given to millions of pregnant women over many years. Flu shots have been shown to be safe for pregnant women and their babies.

Is it safe for pregnant women to receive an influenza vaccine that contains thimerosal?
Yes. A study of influenza vaccination examining over 2,000 pregnant women demonstrated no adverse fetal effects associated with influenza vaccine. Because pregnant women are at increased risk for influenza-related complications, the benefits of influenza vaccine with reduced or standard thimerosal content outweighs the theoretical risk, if any, of thimerosal.

Can the influenza shot be given at any time during pregnancy?
Influenza vaccines are recommended to pregnant women at any time during pregnancy.

Should the flu shot be given to a pregnant woman who has had flu illness before? Do I need a test to know if I need the shot or not?
A pregnant woman who had a flu-like illness at any time in the past should still get the shot. Those pregnant women that had flu symptoms in the past do not need to be tested, but should get the vaccine.

If a pregnant woman delivers her baby before receiving her flu shot, should she still receive it?
Yes. Besides protecting her from infection, the shot will produce protection that can be passed to the infant through her breast milk. Flu shots are only given to infants 6 months of age and older. Everyone who lives with or gives care to an infant less than 6 months of age should get the influenza vaccine. 

What antiviral medicines are available for pregnant women who have the flu?
Oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) or zanamivir (Relenza®) can be used to treat influenza. To get these medications, a doctor needs to write a prescription. These medicines fight against the flu by keeping the viruses from multiplying in your body. If you get sick, the antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious health problems that can result from flu illness. At this time, Tamiflu® is the best medicine to treat pregnant women who have the flu.

Frequently asked questions on High Dose Seasonal Influenza Vaccine

What is Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent influenza vaccine?
Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent is an influenza vaccine manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur Inc., designed specifically for people 65 years and older.

What is the difference between regular Influenza vaccine and Fluzone High-Dose?
High-Dose vaccine contains four times the amount of antigen (the part of the vaccine that prompts the body to make antibody) contained in regular flu shots. The additional antigen is intended to create a stronger immune response (more antibody) in the person getting the vaccine. This flu season the high dose flu vaccine newly helps protect against four different strains of influenza and is Quadrivalent instead of three (trivalent) in years past.

Why is a higher dose vaccine available for adults 65 and older?
Human immune defenses become weaker with age, which places older people at greater risk of severe illness from influenza.  Also, ageing decreases the body's ability to have a good immune response after getting influenza vaccine.  A higher dose of antigen in the vaccine is supposed to give older people a better immune response, and therefore, better protection against the flu.

Is Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent safe?
The safety profile of Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent vaccine is similar to that of regular flu vaccines, although some adverse events (which are also reported after regular flu vaccines) were reported more frequently after vaccination with Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent.  The most common adverse events experienced during clinical studies were mild and temporary, and included pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, headache, muscle aches, fever and malaise.  Most people had minimal or no adverse events after receiving the Fluzone High-Dose vaccine.

Who can get this vaccine?
Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent is approved for use in people 65 years of age and older.  As with all flu vaccines, Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent is not recommended for people who have had a severe reaction to the flu vaccine in the past.

What are the possible side effects of the 2020-21 influenza shots?
The most common side effects after flu shots are mild, such as being sore and tender, red and swollen where the shot was given. Some people might have headache, muscle aches, fever, and nausea or feel tired. If these problems happen, they usually begin soon after the shot and may last as long as 1-2 days. Some people may faint after getting any shot. Rarely, flu shots can cause serious problems like severe allergic reactions. However, life-threatening allergic reactions to vaccines are very rare. A person who has a severe (life-threatening) allergy to eggs or to anything else in the vaccine should not get the shot, even if she is pregnant. Pregnant women should tell the person giving the shots if they have any severe allergies or if they have ever had a severe allergic reaction following a flu shot.