No excuse for not getting a flu shot

Pamela Egan Practical Practitioner

By: Pamela Egan, FNP-C CDE

No excuse for not getting a flu shot

Forget about flu vaccination shortages or needle fears. The excuses for not getting a flu vaccine in time for this year’s flu season are running out faster than you can say “sick day.”

And if the severe outbreak in Australia and New Zealand is any indication of what’s in store for us, as it often is, getting that flu shot could be especially important this year.

Experts say there’s already plenty of flu vaccine to go around, and a new inhaled vaccine may offer a new option for healthy, but needle-wary children and adults.

Officials say they can’t predict when this year’s flu season will officially begin, which is why it’s important for people to start thinking about getting their flu shot as early as possible.

October and November are the best months to get vaccinated, but the flu vaccination will still offer some protection if it’s given in later months.

In the past, the CDC had different advice about who should get the flu vaccine depending on the person’s risk of flu-related health complications and the availability of the vaccine.

But this year flu vaccine manufacturers have projected an ample supply of the vaccine in order to allow everyone who needs the vaccine to get it in October or November.

So who should get the flu vaccine?

Health officials say anyone who is at high risk for developing serious complications from the flu should be vaccinated:

  • Everyone 50 years old and older.

  • Healthy children between 6 and 23 months old

  • People of any age with a chronic medical condition, such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, etc.

  • Individuals with impaired immune systems, including those with leukemia or lymphoma, people undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer and organ transplant recipients.

  • Women who will be in their second or third trimester of pregnancy.

  • All caregivers, healthcare providers and household contacts of the high-risk individuals listed above.

Officials say the oldest and youngest are most at risk and are especially encouraged to get vaccinated.

This flu vaccination season also marks the first time a needle-free alternative to the flu shot is available to the public.

The FluMist influenza vaccine was approved by the FDA earlier this year for use in healthy people between 5 and 49 years old. The vaccine is delivered as a mist that is inhaled through the nose rather than as an injection. This new vaccine contains a weakened strain of a flu virus that doesn’t cause the flu. But because it contains a live virus, FluMist is not recommended for anyone with long lasting illness or an impaired immune system.

Influenza is no picnic.

One might spend one to three days in bed, and one might miss one to two days of work or school if one becomes ill.

Just preventing influenza is not a bad deal. These vaccines are very safe and effective and can prevent a miserable illness like that is a worthwhile thing to do.

This article was originally published October 13, 2003 in The St. Tammany News. > Health Articles > Disease Prevention