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If you're an employee, flu shots are covered by your basic health insurance: GHI, HIP, Empire, Aetna, etc. If you're a covered retiree under 65, the same goes. If you're on Medicare, use your basic Medicare card; flus shots are covered by Medicare Part B.
Immunity to the flu virus may wane over the course of the flu season, so you don’t want to get it too late, once flu season starts. For most people, sometime in October is best.
Since 2010, the flu has resulted in 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations each year and contributed to between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That’s why the CDC urges everyone 6 months and older to get vaccinated. But in a recent CR survey of 744 adults who had a cough, a cold, or the flu in the previous 12 months, only 48 percent said they get the flu shot.
Here, rebuttals to three common excuses:
In a typical year, the shot cuts your risk of getting the flu by 40 to 60 percent. And if you get the flu anyway, your symptoms will be milder and “you’re less likely to have complications, less likely to be admitted to the hospital, and less likely to die,” says William Schaffner, M.D., medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.
Almost all flu vaccines use an inactivated virus that can’t trigger the flu. But because the vaccine doesn’t eliminate your chance of getting the flu, only reduces it, some people who develop the flu after getting the shot wrongly blame the vaccine.
Note that FluMist, a nasal spray vaccine that uses a weakened live virus, can cause mild flulike symptoms but not a full-blown infection. In any case, the CDC isn’t recommending FluMist because it’s not expected to work well against this season’s viral strains.
A mercury-containing preservative called thimerosal is in certain vaccines. But it’s only a trace amount. And that kind of mercury—ethylmercury—is eliminated by the body more quickly than is methylmercury, the form in some seafood.
Moreover, numerous studies have discredited the idea that thimerosal is linked to autism. In any case, there are many thimerosal-free options for people of any age. So if you're still concerned, ask your healthcare provider for one of those.
Teens and adults should consider a quadrivalent vaccine, which protects against four flu strains.
People 50 and older have another option: Flublok Quadrivalent, which has triple the dose of other quadrivalents.
Those 65 and older have two more choices: Fluzone High-Dose and Fluad. Both protect against only three strains, but Fluzone has four times the dose and Fluad adds an ingredient to boost the immune system’s response.
Editor's Note: This article appeared in the January 2018 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.
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