Ask the Provider: All Things Vaccine with Alicia Allman, PA-C

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As Flu Season 2022 comes into full swing, we want to make sure we answer any questions you might have about the flu shot, as well as questions about COVID-19 boosters.

You might have wondered…

  • Is the flu vaccine actually effective? 
  • How important are my COVID-19 boosters? 
  • Are my children old enough for either?

We recently sat down with StarMed provider Alicia Allman, PA-C to talk about all things vaccines! Read the interview below, then schedule your flu shot online at starmed.care.

StarMed (SM): The last couple of years, we’ve been social distancing and we had quarantine, and the flu just wasn’t as much of a concern nationally. What is this year looking like? Is the flu a concern, and should people be getting vaccinated for it?

Alicia Allman (AA): Yes, excellent question. So flu season is annually from October to about February, with peak season in January and February. We’ve had lighter flu cases over the last few years because of the pandemic and all of the precautions we were taking. Now, most people nationally have resumed everyday life, but of course, we still have the threat of influenza. It’s important to protect yourself against both flu and COVID-19 because they’ll both be active during the upcoming winter months. We actually saw in the news that Australia, which has its flu season before us every year, just had its worst flu season over the last five years. 

SM: Five years?

AA: Yes. And that is typically a predictor for the United States, so we are bracing ourselves for a possible similar scenario of the worst flu season in the last five years. So we need to take precautions like getting vaccinated, hand washing, and making sure we stay home if we’re sick.

SM: Wow. So do you recommend everyone gets the vaccine? Who should get vaccinated?

AA: Really, almost everyone. The flu vaccine is available to everyone six months of age and older. The only people who should not receive the vaccine are those who are allergic. There was a question of if you are allergic to eggs you shouldn’t receive the flu vaccine, but actually, more and more research has shown that if you’re allergic to eggs, you don’t need to avoid the flu vaccine. Most people can tolerate it very well, but we still monitor everyone in the office after receiving the vaccine. Even allergists recommend receiving the flu vaccine if you’re allergic to eggs. But you can always talk with your doctor or the provider at StarMed when you arrive. 

But yes, there are a few populations that are more at risk than others who we strongly recommend receiving the flu vaccine. Children six months and older to five years old, who are at high risk for having complications from the flu, anyone age 65 and older, our elderly population, and anyone who has a respiratory chronic illness like asthma, COPD, or emphysema patients. It’s really important for them to receive the flu vaccine since it’s a respiratory illness. 

SM: That makes total sense. I had never heard about the egg thing, but now it’s not a concern! So we’ve talked about the flu, let’s talk about COVID-19. Is COVID-19 still going to be around and should we be keeping up with COVID-19 boosters?

AA: Yes, COVID-19 is still around, all year. It’s not seasonal like the flu, but we do still need to take precautions. You can actually get sick with the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, so that would be a double whammy. I’m sure you would feel miserable and hopefully would not end up in the hospital, but that’s a major concern. We can’t always predict who will need to be hospitalized, which is really scary and dangerous. So it is still recommended to get your COVID-19 booster. Anyone who has not had a COVID-19 vaccine in the last two months is eligible for the new booster that is very effective against all the new Omicron variants. It’s a super great booster, and you can get them together on the same day at StarMed. It’s really easy to just get it all at once, be protected, and check it off your list!

SM: If people are getting both at once, should they plan to do it on a day that’s a little more lowkey? Are they more likely to have a day or two of side effects?

AA: Some people do. It is really variable. I recommend not having so much on your plate the day of and the day after receiving your vaccines. Some people experience soreness in the muscle that they received their vaccine in, or might even get chills or feel a little under the weather or fatigued afterward. So it’s a good idea to just plan a “vaccine day.”

SM: I’m taking a vaccine day! Now I’ve heard this my whole life, that when you get a flu vaccine, you’re actually getting a dose of the flu, and a lot of people may be a little wary of that. Is that true? 

AA: It is not true. It’s a myth that I have heard a lot too, but it’s actually not true at all. The flu vaccine has pieces of the flu virus, so it’s dead and chopped up into pieces. It is literally, scientifically impossible to get the flu from the flu shot. But you might feel those little side effects as your body starts reacting and preparing itself for when it comes in contact with the flu. You’re not actually having the flu illness, you’re just kind of responding to the flu vaccine. So it’s a myth, it’s not true. You would not get the flu from the flu shot. 

Now, you could still contract the flu during the flu season, even if you did receive your shot. It’s not 100 percent effective, but it is highly effective. Even if you get the flu, it wouldn’t be as severe. Isn’t that such a relief? I think it’s absolutely worth it to get your vaccine, even if there is that possibility of getting the flu later on in the season. 

SM: Which brings up another question. Since COVID-19 is year-round, we’re getting our initial two doses, then we are told every six months to get the booster. Is the flu vaccine only one dose, and when is the ideal time to get it?

AA: Great questions. So, the flu shot is only one dose, and for anyone aged 65 and older, we actually have a “high dose” flu shot. It is specifically for our elderly population to get that extra protection. It’s only one dose and it covers you for the whole season. The ideal time is actually September and October, and it’s October right now!

SM: Perfect timing!

AA: Some come into StarMed. We have them and we are ready!

SM: Awesome! So what would you say to someone who says “I don’t really need my shot. I’m young and healthy. I’ll be fine if I get sick, I’ll stay home for a few days.”?

AA: That’s not entirely wrong. You might do just fine and not be so miserable, but again, there are complications from the flu that we can’t always predict, even in young, healthy people. You might get pneumonia, you might get a bad sinus infection, or you might respond poorly and end up being hospitalized due to needing oxygen. These are things that still happen to young people. It’s not guaranteed that you would just be sick for a few days and have to lay in bed. 

SM: That’s a really good point. Beyond that, similarly to COVID-19, the more people in our communities who are vaccinated help us not spread it as rapidly to others, right? 

AA: Right, it helps us as a whole. There was a lot of discussion during the COVID-19 pandemic about herd immunity. It helps whole workplaces and whole families. It helps a lot of people to take that precaution through themselves because we do affect each other. We are around each other. We’re social people.

SM: Exactly, that makes sense. Is there anything else vaccine-related you want to make sure people know?  

AA: Yes, if you have any other questions, we are absolutely here to answer them. We can answer them on social media, or we can answer them if you walk in and have a question before you receive your shot. Even at the locations for our COVID-19 vaccines, we still have all of our providers ready to answer questions from a credible source. Please don’t be afraid to ask us any questions. We will answer them honestly and discuss them with you. But I do wholeheartedly recommend the flu vaccine and updating your COVID-19 vaccine. Any location of StarMed is prepared and we are happy to assist you.

SM: And walk-in appointments are welcome, but patients can also schedule online at StarMed.care, correct?

AA: Yes, absolutely