As we start to feel the chill of fall around us, watch the geese fly south, and finish putting our gardens to bed, the topic of the Flu Vaccine starts to crop up in our daily conversations with patients. Should I get the Flu Shot? The answer is almost always YES. Below is a quick primer on the issue taken from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.

For the 2010-2011 Flu Season there will be two types of vaccines available:

  • The flu shot an inactivated vaccine (contains a killed virus) given via intramuscular injection in the arm. It is approved for use in people older than six months.
  • The nasal spray is a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu. This product is for use in healthy people 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant.

Both vaccines protect against three influenza viruses, including H1N1, H3N2, and influenza B. A common misunderstanding among patients is that the yearly vaccine should protect against the stomach flu-it does not-it protects against the yearly respiratory influenza. It takes about two weeks from the time of your vaccination to develop the antibodies that will provide protection from the flu. While outbreaks can occur as early as October (like last year in Eau Claire), most activity peaks in January or later.

Who should get the flu vaccination?

  • On February 24, 2010, vaccine experts voted that everyone six months and older should get a flu shot each year. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices also voted for universal flu vaccination.

Who should NOT get the flu vaccination? There are some people for whom the vaccine is not safe. They include:

  • People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs
  • People who have had a severe reaction to a flu shot in the past
  • People who developed Guillain-Barre’ syndrome within six weeks of getting a flu shot
  • Children less than six months of age
  • People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever at the time of vaccination

Possible Flu Vaccination Side Effects:

  • Remember that the flu shot contains an inactivated virus so you cannot get the flu from the vaccination. However, some people will experience soreness, redness, or swelling at the injection site and/or a low-grade fever or body aches. These side effects are temporary and usually subside in 48 hours.

For more information about the flu vaccine, please visit www.cdc.gov/flu