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Election Season May Have Ended but Flu Season Has Just Begun

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  The Iowa Department of Public Health anticipates a peak in the flu virus in January, that is why they say now is the time to get a flu shot.

“Last year we noticed nationwide that this was a more severe flu season. It affected more people and more people were hospitalized than we had seen in recent years. When we see something like that it makes us concerned, we want to take care of the people who are sick but in public health you really want to be on the front end, preventing people from getting sick and luckily, we have a seasonal flu vaccine produced every year that helps us protect people,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Caitlin Pedati said.

Dr. Pedati said your body will take about two to four weeks after getting the flu shot to create an immune response to the viruses that are included in the flu shot.

Many people are concerned about the effectiveness of the flu shot. The Iowa Department of Public Health tests to find out some of the viruses circulating in Iowa and in the country to try and tailor the vaccine for that year.

“But even when it’s not a perfect match it’s still going to help your body provide some response, some immunity when it sees a flu virus that would be better than if you hadn’t been vaccinated,” Dr. Pedati said.

Sometimes the shot can be a little painful but Alexis Roberts, a nurse at Unity Point, said there have not been a lot of side effects. “We haven’t seen a lot of people saying, ‘oh my arm really hurts this year.’ It seems to be maybe a couple hours afterword maybe there is some tenderness, but it subsides really quickly. We’ve also seen a couple people have a little red dot at the site, that’s totally normal and it’s a part of the immune response and it doesn’t tend to bother people.”

The Iowa Department of Public Health said a common misconception about the flu vaccine is that it can cause you to become sick.

“There was a recent investigation that showed half of parents believed kids could get the flu from their flu shot and that’s not true. Now you might have some side effects afterwards, feeling sore, a little bit of redness. You might even feel tired or maybe even have a very low-grade temperature. But those are not the flu and they are actually all good things. They are telling us that your immune system is working and it’s learning to fight the virus so that when you do see it in the real world, it will be ready to fight that off,” Dr. Pedati said.

People as young as six-months-old should get their flu shot and costs are covered by most insurances. If you are paying out of pocket for a flu shot, they cost around $25.