Flu and Pneumonia Shot Information
Yearly seasonal flu shots are a covered benefit for UnitedHealthcare® Medicare Advantage plan members.
Get your flu or pneumonia shot today
One of the best ways to help prevent the flu is to get a flu shot every flu season. Typically flu season begins around October and can last until May. The vaccine is currently available in your area.
Call your doctor to discuss your seasonal flu shot and remember, if you're 65 or over or have a chronic health condition such as asthma, diabetes, COPD or congestive heart failure, talk to your healthcare provider to see if the pneumonia vaccines are right for you. There are two vaccines that provide protection against this serious disease. Talk to your Primary Care Provider to make sure 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 additional 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) - Opens in a new window(429.5 KB)
Common questions about flu and pneumonia
How can I prevent getting the flu?
One of the best ways to decrease your chances of getting the flu is to get a seasonal flu shot. Other healthy habits that can limit the spread of germs include:
- Washing your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub or sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Cover your nose or mouth with a tissue, or use your upper sleeve (do not use your hands), 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 caring for someone with the flu, make sure you wash your hands often and clean/disinfect surfaces frequently.
- If you are sick with the flu or flu-like illness, it is recommended that you contact your Primary Care Provider as soon as possible to see if you could benefit from an anti-viral medication. This medication may help shorten the length of the flu illness as well as decrease your chances of a secondary infection like pneumonia which could lead to an unscheduled hospitalization.
- If you're sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. It's recommended to use a facemask if you are sick and will be around others.
Who gets the flu and pneumonia?
Flu: Anyone can get the flu, but it is most serious in those who are 65 and older, and people with long-term illnesses or weakened immune systems.
Pneumonia: You are more likely to develop pneumonia if you are 65 and older, 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, flu season usually lasts from September - May. Illnesses resembling the flu may occur in summer months, but they are usually due to other viruses.
Pneumonia: Pneumonia usually develops when the immune system is weakened. Pneumonia can start from the flu, a cold virus, or other respiratory tract infections. It 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 flu season, preferably by the end of October in early fall and before the winter season begins. Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even into January or later.
Pneumonia: A pneumonia shot can help protect against some of the most common and serious types of pneumococcal (pneumonia) infections. There are two pneumococcal vaccines that protect against pneumococcal (pneumonia) infections. If you're younger than 65, have a long-term illness or smoke, please check with your doctor to make sure you are up to date on your pneumonia vaccine.
How soon do symptoms appear?
Flu: After you've been infected with the flu virus, it can take as little as one to four days for symptoms to appear, with an average of two 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 available, however, some can be costly and results are not known right away. A "rapid flu test" is the most commonly used test in a doctor's office and generally can get results in 30 minutes or less.
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 and do not come in close contact with anyone 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; worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes; and in some cases, serious complications that can require hospitalization or even cause death.
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 during the current flu season. 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 40% - 60% 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?
Every year, some people choose not to get a seasonal flu shot because they may have heard you can get the flu from the flu shot. That's not true. In fact, doctors strongly recommend getting the flu shot because it's the single best way to help protect yourself from the flu. For most people, the flu shot is safe, it doesn't cause serious side effects and it can even help reduce the seriousness of your symptoms if you do get the flu.
For more information on flu and pneumonia, please refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website - Opens in a new window.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Sources
www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2017-2018.htm - Opens in a new window
www.cdc.gov/flu/keyfacts.htm - Opens in a new window
www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm - Opens in a new window
www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/vaccine-selection.htm - Opens in a new window
www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/pneumo/vac-PCV13-adults.htm - Opens in a new window
www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/pneumo/dis-faqs.htm - Opens in a new window
Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) - Opens in a new window