Autumn has arrived, and with it comes the onset of Flu Season. Flu is a difficult illness for everyone, but for cancer patients, it can be devastating. It continues to be confusing with the continuing presence of COVID-19 which continues to challenge everyone with the uncertainty of new variants. It is important to recognize that as cancer patients, healthcare preventative actions like receiving a flu shot should not be ignored. Healthcare providers continue to practice precautions to assure safety as the pandemic continues.
Always consult your physician before getting vaccinated. There may be certain individual medical contraindications to being vaccinated, and they can recommend a safe source where you can receive the vaccination. Check with your physician to determine whether or not you should have the flu shot at the same time or separately from COVID boosters.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that flu has resulted in between 9.3 million and 49 million illnesses each year in the United States since 2010.1 Although there is no way to predict the severity and length of an individual flu season, it is important for GIST patients to receive their vaccinations as early as possible. Flu activity peaks between December and March in the United States. The CDC recommends that cancer patients as well as close family members be vaccinated by the end of October.
Important information about the flu:
• The flu shot is a seasonal vaccine. Each year it is designed to combat strains of flu expected to cause illness in the current season.
• Being a cancer patient puts you at an increased risk of complications, which can include pneumonia, hospitalization and even death.
• Choosing to get a flu shot is your best protection against the flu.
The CDC is the authoritative source for information on the current 2022-2023 season, but as always, it is important for you to check with your individual healthcare provider for any individual restrictions.
The website includes:
• A list of the viruses the 2022-2023 vaccines protect against.
• Types of vaccines recommended for protection against these viruses
• Information on updates to the vaccines for this season
• New vaccines licensed for this season
• Recommended vaccines for this season
The CDC site also includes extensive information about COVID-19 and seasonal flu. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2022-2023.htm
A frequently asked question is “Is it safe to get a flu shot at the same time I get my COVID-19 Booster shot? The answer from the CDC is yes. “Studies conducted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic indicate that it is safe to get both a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine at the same visit. A recent CDC study published in JAMA suggests people who received a flu vaccine and an mRNA COVID-19 booster vaccine at the same time were slightly more likely (8% to 11%) to report systemic reactions including fatigue, headache, and muscle ache than people who only received a COVID-19 mRNA booster vaccine, but these reactions were mostly mild and resolved quickly. The findings of this study are consistent with safety data from clinical trials that did not identify any serious safety concerns with coadministration.2
If you have concerns about getting both vaccines at the same time, you should speak with a health care provider.
When should someone get the flu shot: September and October are generally good times to be vaccinated. Ideally, everyone should be vaccinated by the end of October. Adults, especially those older than 65, should not get vaccinated early (in July or August) because protection in this group may decrease over time. Children can get vaccinated as soon as vaccine becomes available—even if this is in July or August. Some children need two doses. For those children it is recommended to get the first dose as soon as vaccine is available, because the second needs to be given at least 4 weeks after the first. Early vaccination can also be considered for people who are in the third trimester of pregnancy, because this can help protect their infants during the first months of life (when they are too young to be vaccinated).
Flu shots are widely available through your healthcare provider and through hospitals, pharmacies and independent clinics. To find a location near you: https://www.vaccines.gov/find-vaccines/. More information is available on the CDC Website.
Talk to your physician and make an appointment for your flu shot today!