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Flu shots, COVID, COVID vaccines, and monkeypox

My September article in this space is often about flu shots. This year is no different. We’ll also revisit COVID, COVID vaccines and monkeypox. 

At HealthTexas, we’re gearing up for flu season and expect to have our inventory of flu vaccines for our patients later this month. As is true every year, everyone needs to get a flu shot. Currently, flu shots are approved for everyone 6 months and older. In our clinics, we will have flu shots for our patients 6 years and older. 

Those at greatest risk from the flu are children less than 5 years old, adults over 65, and pregnant women. Certain medical conditions also increase a person’s risk of having complications from the flu. Things like asthma, chronic lung disease (COPD, emphysema, cystic fibrosis), heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, obesity, and diabetes are included on the list. If you have one of these conditions, it is even more important to get your flu shot as soon as possible. These conditions are essentially the same ones that put someone at risk for severe COVID infection.

Most have heard stories from people who say, “I got the flu shot and I got the flu.” This is just not possible. The vaccine contains an inactive, or killed, virus—it can’t cause disease. Sometimes a person can get mild flu symptoms, but it is not the flu. Getting the flu can be much worse—even deadly—for those at risk. It does take about 2 weeks for the vaccine to become effective. So, a person could be exposed to the flu virus before the vaccine is fully active. Also, a flu shot received last year does not protect you during this season. The shot lasts only 6-8 months, so if you received it previously, it is no longer protecting you.

Boosters to the COVID vaccines are still being given. Last year I talked about the first round of boosters. This year, the second round has been available for several months. The recommendation is for those over 50 or with chronic health conditions to receive the second booster. Given the prevalence of the new COVID variants, it is likely that another booster will become available this fall for everyone.

At the time of this writing, the incidence of monkeypox has been decreasing across the country, however there were 4 new cases in San Antonio and one death reported in Houston. Caution is still the key to prevention. For those at high risk, vaccines are available. Reach out to your primary care physician or the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District for more information.

Check with your doctor about getting the flu shot or go to your local pharmacy and inquire there. Getting the flu and COVID vaccines helps you, your family, and the community.

Michael Dominguez, MD, FAAFP is board certified in Family Medicine. His office is located at HealthTexas Medical Group, 590 N. General McMullen, 78228, phone: 210-249-0212.