Is it too late to get the flu shot in New York City?

You didn’t get the flu shot, and think you won’t need it? Think again.  Last year was one of the worst flu seasons and the longest one in years. The state of New York was one of the places where fewer people got vaccinated. Were New Yorkers too busy to get their shot?  


The peak of cases in New York was in the middle of February 2018, and there were still cases at the end of April. This year, we don’t know how the season will develop, but more than 3,000 people in the state were infected by the end of 2018, and the number keeps going up in January 2019.

From the New York Department of Health Weekly Influenza  Surveillance Report


What is the difference between a cold and the flu?

Some people confuse the flu with a cold, but they are two separate conditions. It’s important to know the difference because the consequences from getting the flu are not like those of having a cold, and the sooner you can identify that you have the flu, the fewer chances you will have of developing complications.


A virus of the rhinovirus family is what usually causes a cold; it starts with mild symptoms that get worse throughout the week, and there’s no fever in most cases. The flu, on the other hand, could have many of the symptoms of a common cold, like a runny nose, coughing, and sore throat, but it will start suddenly, and fever is one of the most important signs; also most people will have headaches and body aches. The viruses Influenza A and Influenza B are the ones that cause the flu.


Why is the flu shot such a big deal?

Although in most cases a person will recover from the flu, some can get seriously ill, hospitalized, or even die. None of this will happen with a common cold.  The complications of the flu can go from sinus and ear infections to pneumonia and even inflammation of the brain and simultaneous shut down of major organs like the kidney and lungs.


Influenza virus slowly evolves over the years, changing its composition.  This makes it difficult for our immune system to recognize the new variation and attack the virus. That is why the flu vaccine is revised every year and remodeled according to the changes in the virus.  The last biggest mutation was in 2009 with H1N1 (now a common variant of Influenza A) and caused many deaths and hospitalizations.


Who should get the flu shot?

Everybody is at risk of getting sick with the flu, especially if you travel by the New York City subway and frequent other crowded places. No matter what is your age or how healthy you are, you should get the flu shot, but it’s even more important if you are older than 65 years old, if you suffer from diabetes or heart disease, or if you are pregnant.


Other groups that should be a priority when getting the flu shot are people with asthma, those on aspirin prescription, personnel that work in healthcare, and those infected with HIV.


Children from 6 months to 5 years old are among the most vulnerable to getting affected by the flu and its complications so, if you have children of these ages, it’s a no-brainer to take them to get the flu shot, and to keep those under 6 months protected from exposure to crowds and sick people.


Who should not get the flu shot?

The flu shot is not recommended in babies younger than 6 months old, in people with an allergy to eggs or the vaccine components, and in Guillain-Barré Syndrome patients.  Also, if you are currently very ill, you should not get the flu shot, or consult your primary care doctor before you do.


There’s a chance that if you are reading this section, you are looking for an excuse not to get the shot. I get it.  But, if you are afraid of needles, I have good news for you; there’s a flu vaccine in nasal spray. Usually, if you are a healthy adult, you qualify for the nasal spray, and healthy children over two years old can also get it.  Other groups should talk to their doctor before trying the nasal spray.


Does the flu shot work?

Even if you get the flu shot, you can still get sick, but you will have 60% less chance of getting the flu and, if you are already ill, the vaccine can help to avoid serious complications.  The vaccine only works temporarily, that’s why you should get it every year.


In addition to getting the shot, you should take other measures to prevent getting infected. Avoid contact with sick people, use a tissue to cough or sneeze, and wash your hands frequently.


When traveling on the subway is difficult to avoid contact; something you can do is to always use your gloves, even if it’s not that cold, and keep a small hand sanitizer hanging from your bag.  You could wear a surgical mask, but also works if you just wrap your scarf around your face while in the train (it draws less attention and it doesn’t mess up your style).


Where can I get the flu shot in NYC?

You can get the flu shot in your doctor’s office, in the hospital or emergency rooms, clinics, health centers, pharmacies, supermarkets, school or college, and even in your workplace!


It’s easy to find the locations. You can go to Google Maps and type “flu shot NYC.”  In fact, I did the search for you and I am sharing the link here.

Now you have absolutely no excuse to not get your flu shot! You are still on time.  It takes a few minutes and it’s just a pinch. Go and do it now!


CDC Summary of the 2017-2018 Influenza Season

CDC- Seasonal Flu

New York State Influenza Activity, Surveillance and Reports

WebMD- How Effective Is the Flu Vaccine?

National Vaccine Information Center- How Effective is Influenza Vaccine?