Flu and Pneumonia Shot Information
Annual seasonal flu shots are a covered benefit for UnitedHealthcare® Medicare Advantage plan members.
Do I need a flu or pneumonia shot?
One of the best ways to prevent getting the flu is to have a flu shot every year. Flu shots are currently available in your area.
Call your doctor to discuss your annual flu shot and remember, if you are over 64, to ask if you also need a pneumonia shot. Some people can be at risk for pneumonia. There are two types of vaccines that provide protection against this serious disease. Talk to your Primary Care Provider to see if you are up to date on your pneumonia vaccines and find out which type of vaccine may be right for you.
You may also get a flu shot, at no cost to you, from select local area pharmacies. This is the same flu shot whether given at your doctor's office or pharmacy. Some pharmacies may also offer the pneumonia shot. Please call ahead to confirm. Also be sure to:
- Call the pharmacy for more information on dates and times.
- Bring your health plan member ID card.
Download a list of pharmacies that provide seasonal flu shots (PDF)(89.1 KB)
Common questions about flu and pneumonia
Pneumonia usually develops when the immune system is weakened. Pneumonia can start from the flu, a cold virus, or other respiratory tract infections.
How can I prevent getting the flu?
One of the best ways to decrease your chances of getting the flu is to have an annual flu shot. Other healthy habits that can limit the spread of germs include:
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Cover your nose or mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it and wash your hands.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, it is recommended that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
Who gets the flu and pneumonia?
Flu: Anyone can get the flu, but it is most serious in those who are over 64, and people with long-term illnesses or weakened immune systems.
Pneumonia: You are more likely to develop pneumonia if you are over 64, smoke, have a long-term medical condition such as heart or lung disease, or have a weakened immune system.
When do flu and pneumonia occur?
Flu: The flu occurs most often in the winter months. Illnesses resembling the flu may occur in summer months, but they are usually due to other viruses.
Pneumonia: Pneumonia can strike anyone at any time of the year.
When should I get flu and pneumonia shots?
Flu: You should get a flu shot every year.
Pneumonia: A pneumonia shot can help protect against some of the most common and serious types of pneumonia. If you're age 64 or older, in most cases you will need only one pneumonia shot. If you're younger than 64, have a long-term illness or smoke, please check with your doctor.
How soon do symptoms appear?
Flu: The incubation period for flu is one to five days.
Pneumonia: After you’ve been infected with a pneumonia-causing organism, it takes as little as one to three days or as long as seven to 10 days for symptoms to appear.
How are they diagnosed?
Flu: Usually, a doctor will diagnose a case of the flu based on typical symptoms of fever, chills, headache, cough and body aches. Specific lab tests to confirm the flu are costly and time-consuming and are usually limited to outbreak or disease surveillance.
Pneumonia: You must see your doctor to guarantee appropriate treatment and successful recovery. Your doctor will first listen to your chest for crackling noises and tap your chest to check for dull thuds indicating fluid-filled lungs. If necessary, an X-ray can help confirm if you have pneumonia.
What is the right treatment?
Flu: You'll usually start feeling better if you get a lot of rest and plenty of fluids. Consult your physician if you have the flu or flu-like illness so you can receive influenza antiviral drugs as soon as possible. These may help make your illness milder and help make you feel better sooner. Also, remember to stay home to prevent spreading the flu to others. Antibiotics are not an appropriate treatment for the flu.
Pneumonia: Antibiotics (usually five to 14 days, maybe longer if you have an impaired immune system), rest, and plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Consult your physician for over-the-counter medications that may help with fever. Be sure to contact your physician if you do not feel better or if you develop a worsening cough, shortness of breath, or feel weak or faint when you stand up.
What are some complications from the flu?
Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.
Common questions about the flu vaccine
How effective is the flu vaccine?
How well the flu vaccine works depends on how good the match is between the influenza (flu) vaccine and the types of flu viruses that are circulating that year. Scientists try to predict what strains (types) of flu viruses are most likely to spread and cause illness each year to put into the vaccine. In years when the vaccine strains and the virus strains are well matched, the vaccine can reduce the chances of getting the flu by 70% - 90% in healthy adults. The vaccine may be somewhat less effective in elderly persons and very young children, but vaccination can still help prevent serious complications from the flu.
Is the flu vaccine effective against all types of flu and cold viruses?
The flu vaccine is your best protection against flu viruses. However, the vaccine does not provide protection against non-flu viruses that can cause colds and other respiratory illnesses. It can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between a cold and the flu based on symptoms alone.
The flu vaccine won’t protect you from cold or flu viruses that are already in your body when you get a flu vaccine. The flu vaccine takes about two weeks to provide protection from the flu, and it’s your best protection to prevent the most common types of flu this season.
Can a flu shot give you the flu?
Inactivated influenza vaccine contains noninfectious killed viruses and cannot cause the flu; so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot.
For more information on flu and pneumonia, please refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Sources