Health Report: Spreading the Facts about the Flu Vaccine

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – As many as one in five Americans get the flu each year, and more than 200,000 are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications.

Most people recover on their own from influenza, but for young children, adults older than 65 and people with chronic health conditions, the flu can cause serious, sometimes life-threatening complications.

Getting a flu shot is one of the best ways help prevent catching and spreading the flu. Physicians recommend anyone age 6 months and older should get the flu vaccine each year as soon as it becomes available, which is typically in the fall from September to November. The flu vaccine comes in an injection or nasal spray.

For the 2015-16 flu season children younger than 9 years old who have had less than two flu vaccinations in their lifetime will need to receive two doses spaced a month apart.

All vaccines stimulate the immune system and can occasionally cause mild muscle aches and a low-grade fever. These symptoms are very rare, often mild in nature. The injectable influenza vaccine is composed of inactivated virus particles, so it can’t transmit infection or cause you to get the flu.

“When my patients are skeptical about getting the vaccine, I remind them that it’s still the best protection we have,” says Mark Shalauta, M.D., Family Medicine Physician at Scripps Clinic Rancho Bernardo. “The CDC is predicting that this year’s flu vaccine will be more effective than what was available last year.”

The flu vaccine is extremely safe for most people. However, if you have a severe, (life-threatening) allergy to eggs or have had Guillain-Barré syndrome, you should discuss this with your physician before getting the flu vaccine.

People who are moderately or severely ill should usually wait until they recover before getting the flu vaccine.

Even if you are not at risk for severe complications from the flu, you can still pay a hefty price if you get it. Having the flu can result in a significant loss of work time. “I’ve had people tell me that they’ve had the flu and it wasn’t that bad,” says Dr. Shalauta. “Those people probably had a common cold. Influenza feels like you’ve been hit by a bus and once you’ve had it, you know how different it is from a cold.”

Vaccines also create herd immunity. Because influenza is transmitted from person to person, when a critical mass of community members is immunized against it, most members of the community are protected because there are fewer sick people passing the illness to others.

Find a Flu Shot Clinic Near You

To help protect yourself and your loved ones from influenza, find a Scripps Clinic or Scripps Coastal Medical Center flu vaccine clinic near you and make an appointment to get vaccinated. Call 1-800-Scripps or visit Scripps.org for additional information. 

Categories: Health