Our flu vaccines have arrived and now is the best time to get your shot so you are protected before it’s too late. Though the flu usually occurs in the winter, outbreaks can happen as early as October and can last as late as May. The CDC recommends everyone six months and older to get the flu vaccine every year to keep up with the changing virus and ensure the best possible protection against influenza. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu.
Those who are at the greatest risk for deadly complications from the flu should get vaccinated before the end of September. High risk groups include:
- Young children
- The elderly
- Pregnant women
- Those with asthma
For the youngest patients from 6 months to 8 years old who need two doses of vaccine, they should receive their first dose as soon as possible to allow time to get the second dose before flu season begins. The two doses should be given at least four weeks apart.
If you or a loved one are 65 or older, please get your vaccine and encourage friends and family to do the same. For seniors, there are two flu shots available. One is a regular dose vaccine, and there is a newer flu vaccine designed specifically for people 65 and older. The “high dose vaccine” contains four times the amount of antigen as the regular flu shot and produces more antibodies than the regular vaccine. Initial studies suggest that the higher dose will provide greater protection against the flu disease.
Some startling statistics from the CDC show:
- 80% – 90% of all seasonal flu-related deaths occur in those 65 and older
- 50%-70 of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations occur in those 65 and older
Pregnant women are at a greater risk of the flu causing severe illness than in women who are not pregnant. Changes in the immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy make pregnant women (and women up to two weeks postpartum) more prone to severe illness from flu, as well as to hospitalizations and even death. Pregnant women with flu also have a greater chance for serious problems for their unborn baby, including premature labor and delivery. The flu shot is safe for a pregnant women and her unborn child.
Though people with asthma are not at a greater risk of contracting asthma, they are at a greater risk for complications. This is because people with asthma have swollen and sensitive airways, and influenza can cause further inflammation of the airways and lungs. Influenza infection in the lungs can trigger asthma attacks and worsen asthma symptoms. It also can lead to pneumonia and other acute respiratory diseases. In fact, adults and children with asthma are more likely to develop pneumonia after getting sick with the flu than people who do not have asthma. Asthma is the most common medical condition among children hospitalized with the flu and one of the more common medical conditions among hospitalized adults.
Even if you do not fall into one of the high risk groups, it’s important to get the flu shot. If you are not immunized, you are putting those around you at risk for contracting the flu. You are also running the risk of lost time at work which can mean lost wages. Each year more than 111 million workdays are lost due to flu. That’s about $7 billion per year in sick days and lost productivity. If you are an employer, please encourage your employees to stay home if you show signs of the flu. This will help decrease the chances of the virus spreading to other workers.
Village Pharmacy of Hampstead and Rocky Point Pavilion Pharmacy accept walk-in requests for the flu shot during normal business hours Monday – Saturday. Come by and see us to get your quick and painless vaccine!
Sources: CDC and Flu.gov