The Flu Vaccine Top Ten List
Flu season is approaching again, and with it come the usual questions and misinformation about flu vaccines.
- Who should get the vaccine?
The short answer is, everyone older than 6 months. Especially pregnant women, since the flu is associated with excess pregnancy complications and death; people with an immune system weakened by HIV, cancer, and transplants; and health care workers who may give the flu to their patients.
- Should anyone avoid the vaccine?
Someone who had Guillain-Barré syndrome within 6 weeks of a prior flu shot should probably not get another vaccine.
- When should you get the vaccine?
Ideally,before the end of October. The shot takes about 2 weeks to kick in, so you want to have it in time for the usual start of flu season, which is around Thanksgiving. Remember, it’s never too late. It’s also not too early. For example; a shot now will still protect you next summer if you are travelling to Australia at the peak of their flu season in July.
- What if I’m sick now with a cold or just not feeling well?
You can get the shot if even if you’re a little sick, even with a fever. If you’re really sick you should wait, so you know if any problems are related to the illness and not the flu shot.
- Which form of vaccine should I get?
There are several different forms of the vaccine, including a nasal spray for younger people and a needleless injection gun. The standard inactivated vaccine, which we give at the Clinic, is good for everyone. People over 65 should get the high dose version. The basic shot in the arm may cause a little soreness, but it is the standard.
- What about egg allergies?
Most of the vaccines are prepared in chicken eggs (450 million eggs a year!) and contain very small amounts of egg proteins. Even in people with documented egg allergies, the current recommendations are to give the same vaccines without any special precautions. The rate of severe allergic reactions is about 1 in every 740,000 vaccinations.
- Does the vaccine prevent the flu?
The answer is yes, but not always. The vaccine reduces the chance of getting the flu by about 40%. That’s not great, but a lot of people get the flu. Each year in the U.S. between 9 and 36 MILLION people get the flu, 140 to 710 thousand are hospitalized, and 12 to 56 thousand die. That’s about the same as the number of traffic deaths in the U.S. Even a small change in those numbers adds up to a lot of people.
- Why is the vaccine different every year?
The virus mutates constantly, and your immune system doesn’t see this until you’re exposed to the new strain. The World Health Organization monitors the strains that are active and choose the 3 or 4 they think are most likely to be prevalent. This year, 2 of the strains are the same as last year and 2 are new. It takes about 6 months from the time the strains are chosen until the vaccine is produced (remember the 450 million chicken eggs?), so sometimes the virus has mutated again even before the vaccine can be made.
- Can someone get the flu from the vaccine?
No, it is not possible as the vaccine has no active influenza.
- When does Grants Pass Clinic give flu shots?
Our annual Flu Shot Clinic will start on September 17th and will run through October 26th. The high dose vaccine is available now for anyone coming in for a regular appointment.
Written by Dr. Spencer Countiss