Vaccination is the best protection against getting the flu. We recommend that all of our patients age 6 months and older receive an annual flu vaccination. Please be sure to check with your insurer for payment and coverage.
We have two types of flu shots available:
a regular flu shot approved for people ages 6 months and older
a high-dose flu shot approved for people 65 and older, (gives higher antibody levels, but slightly higher risk of arm soreness)
We also have Flu Mist
a nasal spray vaccine approved for use in healthy people ages 2 through 49 years of age who are not pregnant.
The best time to receive your flu shot is in late September, October, or November. Please call our office to schedule your appointment at one of our convenient flu clinics.
Consider also getting a Pneumonia vaccine, if you're never had one before and you are a smoker, diabetic, have chronic heart or lung disease, or are over age 65.
Please ask us if you have any questions!
Should I get a flu shot?
Currently, flu vaccines are recommended for people 6 months of age and older, including women that are pregnant. The reason for this is that the vaccine reduces the risk of death from influenza and influenza related illness such as pneumonia. People with underlying diseases such as heart disease, emphysema, cancer, asthma and diabetes are particularly vulnerable. In pregnant women not only are they protected by vaccination, but also their newborn infants are protected up to 6 months of age.
There are several types of vaccines on the market now. There is the inactivated vaccine that is injected into your muscle, typically the shoulder. This is the standard flu shot (several different brands available). This is not a live virus, but rather it is made with proteins from the flu virus that will cause your body to produce antibodies that will fight the flu virus. There is a high dose formulation, Fluzone High-Dose, which is also injected and is recommended for those ages 65 and older. There is also now a new product Fluzone Intradermal for 18 to 64 year old individuals. This is a smaller dose given just below the skin as opposed to in the muscle. You should not get these vaccines if you have an active neurological disorder, an acute illness, or a fever. If you have an allergy to eggs, such as hives you can get the vaccine, but will need to be observed in the Doctors office for 30 minutes afterwards. There is also a nasal spray called FluMist which is a live virus that has been modified to cause your body to make antibodies to protect you from the flu. You should not get this vaccine if you are younger than 2 or older than 49 years of age, allergic to eggs, 2-17 years of age and on aspirin chronically, less than 5 with recurrent wheezing, any age and have active wheezing, or immunocompromized such as if you have HIV, if you are on chemotherapy or you are in contact with someone who is.
Children less than 9 years old who are being vaccinated for the first time should receive 2 doses at least 4 weeks apart. Although we try to vaccinate people before December, (I usually get my shot around Thanksgiving), antibodies develop to protect people within 2 weeks after the vaccine, so we can vaccinate people throughout the flu season which in this part of the country is typically January through March.
Side effects from the vaccines are few. The nasal spray can cause mild flu like symptoms. There can be mild soreness at the site of the injection with the shots. There are also reports of more serious side effects, but these are very rare. There are estimates from the center for Disease Control that the death toll from influenza averages around 36,000 people per year in the United States alone.
Delorise Brown, MD
Internal Medicine & Endocrinology