Sunday, October 22, 2006
Time for Flu Shots
It's the time of year to start rolling up your sleeves for the flu vaccine shot.
The flu season hits the northern hemisphere between October to May. In the southern hemisphere it's the other half of the year, and in the tropics, the flu season is present year round. "Annual immunization against influenza A and B is the most effective method of preventing infection".
Who should get a flu shot?
Generally, those wanting to reduce their chance of getting sick. It's especially recommended for the following high-risk groups:
- People aged 50 and older.
- Women who are or will be pregnant during the flu season.
- Adults and children 6 months and older with chronic heart, or lung conditions including asthma, metabolic diseases such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, or weakened immune system such as with HIV or with medications, and any kind of brain or spinal cord disorders.
- Children 6 months to 18 years who are on long term aspirin therapy.
- All the contacts of people in these high-risk groups.
- All children 6-23 months was the recommendation in the past. This year the U.S. Advisory committee on Immunization Practices has broadened the age group to include all children 6-59 months, their household contacts and out-of-home care givers as well.
Who shouldn't get one?
- People with severe allergy to eggs.
- People who currently have a fever.
- Children less than 6 months old.
- People who have had Guillane Barre syndrome (a paralytic condition) within 6 weeks of getting a flu shot in the past.
When is the best time to get one?
It's optimal to get a shot in October or November (especially for the high-risk groups noted above), but you can also benefit in December or later.
What types of vaccines are there?
- A flu shot, (Fluvirin, Fluzone, Fluarix), is made from an inactivated vaccine, which contrary to popular belief cannot give you the flu.
- A flu nasal spray, (Flumist), is made from an attenuated live vaccine. Because this can theoretically cause transmission of the flu, it should only be given to healthy people ages 5-49 who are not pregnant, not healthcare workers, or contacts of anyone who is immuno-suppressed.
How soon will the vaccine take effect?
Effectiveness occurs within 2 weeks, the shot is fully effective, and usually the effect lasts for 6 months or longer. A protection rate of 50-80 percent is the norm.
Where is the flu vaccine given?
Other than your doctor's office, try Flu Clinic Locator to see where you might be able to get a shot.
References: The Medical Letter, Vol 48, Oct. 9, 2006. MMWR, Vol 55, July 28, 2006.