Editor’s note: With the 2021-22 flu season here, we are republishing this post from last year that includes information about the importance of getting the flu vaccine, especially for pancreatic cancer patients and those who come in close contact with them. Although flu activity last season was the lowest it has been in decades, in part because of masking and social distancing requirements, the CDC calls flu vaccination “paramount” this year, both to protect people from illness as restrictions ease and to reduce the impact on the healthcare system during the ongoing pandemic.
Read CDC frequently asked questions related to the 2021-22 flu season, including guidance on receiving a COVID-19 booster shot (see our related blog) and flu shot at the same time.
It is more important than ever for people to get flu vaccines this fall.
This includes pancreatic cancer patients – if they are able – and those who will come into close, frequent contact with them.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone six months of age and older get the flu vaccine each year. This year, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is creating even more urgency around this recommendation.
While a flu vaccine will not protect against the coronavirus, it can help protect those with pancreatic cancer against the flu – which can be very serious for those with weakened immune systems due to pancreatic cancer treatment.
The flu vaccine is not 100% effective, but it lessens the chances of you getting the flu. And if you do still get the flu, it may not be as severe if you’ve had the flu vaccine.
A serious case of the flu may also require a doctor or hospital visit, risking potential exposure to the coronavirus if someone there is infected.
And because the flu and the coronavirus cause similar symptoms, cases of the flu might be treated as if they are coronavirus and might require quarantine or similar measures.
Also, with the coronavirus pandemic already straining healthcare systems, flu cases requiring medical attention could make that worse.
The flu vaccine is recommended every year because the flu changes over time. This year’s flu shot uses – and therefore helps protect you against – strains of the virus that scientists believe will most likely cause illness this flu season.
The CDC recommends trying to get this season’s flu vaccine as soon as possible.
Patients and those in close contact with them should talk to their healthcare team soon about whether a flu vaccine is recommended and safe – along with recommended timing and vaccine type.
The vaccine can be a flu shot or a nasal spray. The nasal spray uses a live vaccine, so it is not recommended for certain age groups or those with weakened immune systems – like pancreatic cancer patients.
The flu vaccine will continue to be distributed through doctors’ offices, pharmacies, health departments and other channels. There are also efforts to create outdoor and drive-through clinics where possible.
The CDC recommends ensuring that a provider is following the CDC’s pandemic vaccination guidance. If they are, it should be safe for you to get the vaccine.
To find options for receiving a vaccine near you, ask your healthcare team, visit VaccineFinder.org or call 211 or 311.
In addition to getting the flu vaccine, there are many precautions you can take that will help you avoid getting the flu as well as the coronavirus:
- Keep your distance (at least six feet) from others and avoid crowded places when possible.
- Wash your hands frequently, including before meals and as soon as you return home from an outing.
- Wear a mask when in shared spaces or when coming into contact with others.
- Try not to touch your face.
- Know the symptoms of both the flu and the coronavirus, and contact your healthcare team if any of these symptoms appear.
And make sure you’re communicating with the patient’s healthcare team when there may be an issue.