It’s that time of year again – flu season. But do you really need to go to the trouble of getting a shot? If you want to remain healthy, the current wisdom is that most people should indeed get their flu vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone older than six months of age be vaccinated, with few exceptions.
Health experts at Pharmacy Advantage, in Troy, Mich., recognize a flu shot is usually effective in protecting you against illness. They also realize it can, by proxy, often spare those around you at particular risk of serious consequences, such as older adults and those with chronic health conditions as well as young children. This is especially true for babies under six months of age who cannot be vaccinated themselves.
Children age six months and over, however, can receive a flu shot. In fact, results of a recent study showed that, during flu seasons from 2010 to 2012, children’s risk of being admitted to a pediatric intensive care unit decreased by 74 percent thanks to the vaccine. Likewise, for adults of all ages during the 2011 to 2012 flu season there was a 71 percent reduction in flu-related hospitalizations with vaccination.
Even pregnant women can receive a flu shot, which can not only protect them during pregnancy but also their newborn babies for up to six months after birth.
It’s important for others with chronic conditions who may be at particular risk of serious complications from the flu to get the vaccine. For individuals with heart disease, particularly those who may have suffered a cardiac event during the year, receiving a flu shot has been associated with lower rates of subsequent cardiac events. In addition, for those with diabetes and chronic lung disease flu vaccination has been shown to reduce hospitalization by 79 percent and 52 percent, respectively.
Those over age 65 are at particular risk here. While the flu vaccine may not work as well in such older individuals, it can still provide some protection and may help keep what otherwise would have been a serious case in the relatively mild realm.
The CDC recommends, if possible, flu shots should be given by October. However, even if this window is missed it is still important to take a flu shot as late as January, or even beyond, with vaccines being offered throughout the season until the supply is fully depleted. In fact, during most seasons it isn’t until at least January that flu activity peaks, so getting a shot during this period can still prove helpful.
This year there are different flu vaccine options. With the traditional flu vaccine, you get protection against three different flu viruses – two influenza A viruses and an influenza B virus. This is available in the standard dose, which is approved for those as young as 6 months. The virus is, however, grown in eggs, which may be an issue for those with allergies.
There is also a recombinant, egg-free version of the shot approved for those age 18 and older. For those 65 and older there is a high-dose version of the vaccine, which doctors recommend. There’s also a quadrivalent flu vaccine that protects against two strains of influenza A and two of influenza B, approved for use in those 6 months or older.
In most cases, with the right shot you, too, can remain healthy and free of flu throughout the season and beyond.