It's that time of year again, when health care professionals and the Centers for Disease Control take one last stab at encouraging non-vaccinated people to get their flu shots (or nasal spray vaccines) before the flu season kicks in, in earnest after the holiday season. This year's National Influenza Vaccination Week is currently in progress (December 8th through the 14th).
The most important thing for you to know is if you haven't gotten your flu shot yet it is NOT too late!
As long as flu viruses are still spreading and causing illness, a flu shot can still protect you against the flu to some extent. Even if you have already gotten sick with one flu virus, you can still benefit from vaccination. Since the flu vaccine protects against three or four different flu strains (depending on which flu vaccine you receive) expected to circulate each season, even getting a shot after the fact might protect you against getting sick again from a different strain of the flu virus.
Common Myths About Flu Shots
1. Not everyone needs them. NOT TRUE!
Flu shots used to only be recommended for certain high risk groups; today, they are recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older. Getting a flu shot is the best protection against getting the flu!
However, there are still high risk groups that absolutely should always get a flu shot every year, because they are at higher risk of flu-related complications, some of which can be life-threatening. Those of us who have asthma are in that high risk list, as are:
- Children younger than age 5 (but older than 6 months)
- Older adults aged 65 and up
- Pregnant women
- People with chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, COPD, heart disease and other conditions listed here
2. The flu vaccine can give you the flu. NOT TRUE!
Flu vaccine is made from killed virus, so it is cannot give you the flu, not even a mild case. Side effects, other than some mild soreness at the injection site, are also rare. If you have an upset stomach after getting a shot or you come down with the actual flu, it is not because you got a flu shot.
If you do come down with the flu, chances are your case will be less severe because you did get the flu shot.
3. Experts don't really know what strain of the flu is coming from year to year, so chances are the flu shot won't be that effective anyway. NOT TRUE!
While it's true that experts cannot be 100% sure what strains of the flu are coming each year, they do use sophisticated prediction methods to determine the strains most likely to arrive. And most of the time, they are mostly right, quite an impressive feat really.
Some Key Facts to Understand About Flu Vaccination
Despite the unpredictable nature of the flu, you should know:
- Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors' visits, missed work due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths.
- You need a flu vaccine every year for optimal protection, because flu viruses are always changing and new vaccine is made each year so that the vaccine protects against the currently circulating influenza viruses. Also, immune protection from vaccination declines over time and must be renewed for optimal protection.
- It takes about two weeks after vaccination for your immune system to fully respond by making enough antibodies to effectively fight the flu.
- Flu activity usually peaks in January or later in the United States and can last as late as May. As long as flu viruses are circulating, it's not too late to get vaccinated.
- Children may need two doses of flu vaccine (split in half) to be fully protected against the flu. So the earlier you can start, the better!
- There are many choices available for flu vaccine. Some vaccines protect against three different strains of the flu (trivalent), while others protect against four strains (quadrivalent). Traditionally, the flu vaccine has been in shot form, but there is also a nasal spray available these days. Talk with your doctor about which type of vaccine is right for you and/or your children.
- Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, including doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, retail stores and pharmacies, and health centers, as well as by many employers and schools.
- Millions of doses of influenza vaccine have been administered to people safely for decades.
Once vaccinated, you can enjoy this holiday season knowing that you have taken the single best step to protect yourself and your loved ones against the flu. So, if you haven't gotten vaccinated yet, give yourself the best holiday gift yet and go get protected!
Published On: December 11, 2013