What you need to know about this year’s flu vaccine
The flu generally infects 7% of the US population and over 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications. October to May is flu season and according to the CDC, now is the time to get vaccinated.
It is too soon to tell how bad the flu season will be but if you wait to get vaccinated until you know, it may be too late. Remember, right after vaccination your body needs time to figure out how to attack the flu and make protective antibodies. Waiting until the flu is spreading throughout the community is one reason why people getting vaccinated still get the flu. It can be a couple of weeks after the vaccination before you are fully protected although you will likely have a less severe form of illness.
The flu vaccine this year contains three or four types of inactivated flu virus, the ones the CDC determines is most likely to cause disease this year. You cannot get the flu from flu vaccine even though you may feel a bit lethargic for a day or so afterwards and your arm may be sore. This year the strains included in the United States are different than those chosen to prevent flu in the Southern Hemisphere (South America, Africa, and Australia) so if you are traveling to those areas, there may be a benefit to being vaccinated for those strains as well. Finally, the CDC is now recommending that everyone over 6 months of age receive vaccinations. This is because everyone is susceptible to getting the flu and those most likely to die, the very young, the very old, and the immuno-compromised are less likely to be infected if there is broader vaccination throughout the country.
The CDC estimates that the country can produce 176 million doses of vaccine so roughly half the population could be vaccinated. The newest models estimate that the number of cases of pneumonia requiring hospitalization could be reduced by over a third and possible up to one half if the flu vaccination participation rate was increased.
They have not yet developed their immune system well enough to allow this vaccine to work. Simply put, they would not get any benefits. However, they are at risk of pneumonia and other bad effects of the flu so daycare workers, parents, and other children in the home really need to be vaccinated and parents need to be careful to keep their kids away from people who might be infected.
Even if you do not have a doctor you can still get immunized in a community pharmacy at a time and place convenient to you. You don’t have to miss work or even reschedule your plans, just get it done when you are in the pharmacy. If you are under-insured this could be an affordable option which can prevent costly doctor visits or hospitalizations later on.
Michael White; Dept. Of Pharmacy Practice, UConn School of Pharmacy