The Flu Vaccine

The Flu Vaccine: Your Best Option Against Influenza.

Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is responsible for thousands of deaths each year in the United States1.  A majority of these deaths occur in adults older than 65 years and are a result of flu-related complications including pneumonia.  The influenza virus is still an active threat in the community despite best efforts to prevent the spread of infection.

The virus strains used in the seasonal flu vaccine are selected based on patterns and data that have been collected from different areas of the world that experience their flu season ahead of ours.  The three or four most common flu viruses observed are included in the seasonal flu vaccine. 

grandmother_mom_granddaughter.jpgWho should receive the seasonal flu vaccine?

It is recommended that everyone at least 6 months of age receive an annual flu vaccine.  Certain individuals are at increased risk of contracting the flu  including children (< 2 years of age), adults older than 65 years, those with chronic lung disease (asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, cystic fibrosis), diabetes, heart disease, weakened immune systems due to HIV/AIDS, cancer, or chronic steroid use, and pregnant women1.  Individuals who live or work with high-risk patients should also be vaccinated to prevent the spread of disease to these vulnerable populations. 

There are different types of flu vaccines available.  The flu shot is an inactivated or killed vaccine, which is given into the muscle, usually into the upper arm2.  A needle-free nasal spray, FluMist®, is also available and contains live vaccine that has been weakened.  The nasal spray is available to healthy individuals aged 2 to 49 years3.  A high-dose vaccine is another injectable option for adults 65 years and older.

Side effects to the flu shot are very minimal and may include soreness or redness at the injection site, a slight headache, or a low grade fever.  Serious allergic reactions are very rare, but precautions should be taken in people with severe allergies to eggs, who have had a serious reaction to the flu vaccine in the past, or who have experienced a neurological syndrome called Guillain-Barré syndrome2.  The flu shot CANNOT cause the flu.

When is a good time to get vaccinated?

The peak of flu season generally occurs in January and February, but can start as early as October and last until May depending on the year.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine becomes available, which could be as early as August1.  It takes a full two weeks for your body to produce the antibodies needed to fight against the influenza virus, so it is important to get vaccinated before the flu season begins.  Most immunization clinics start in September and run through November.  Although your body’s immunity to the influenza virus will decrease over time, the vaccine will offer protection during the full flu season. Therefore, it is best not to delay getting vaccinated. 

Get your flu shot at Cass Street Pharmacy!

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All of our pharmacists are certified to give vaccines to people as young as 6 years of age.  Getting vaccinated at your pharmacy may be less expensive and more convenient than making an appointment with your health care provider.  We are able to bill your insurance including Medicare.  Your pharmacist will let your doctor know that you have received a vaccination at the pharmacy, so your health records stay up to date.   We also provide traveling flu clinics to local businesses and organizations.  Call us for more information.

References:

(1)   www.cdc.gov/flu cited August 13, 2012

(2)   Influenza Vaccine. In: Lexi-Drugs Online [database on the Internet]. Hudson (OH): Lexi-Comp, Inc.;2012 [cited 14 August 2012]. Available from: http://online.lexi.com.FluMist®. In: Lexi-Drugs Online [database on the Internet]. Hudson (OH): Lexi-Comp, Inc.;2012 [cited 15 August 2012]. Available from: http://online.lexi.com.

(3)   Echinacea. In: Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database [database on the Internet]. Stockton (CA): Therapeutic Research Faculty; 1995-2008 [cited 15 August 2012] Available from: http://www.naturaldatabase.com.