September 18, 2008

Q&A about flu shots

Why should I get the flu(influenza) vaccine?

The flu (influenza) is a serious disease that can affect people of any age. In an average year, influenza is responsible for more than 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths in the United States. Getting vaccinated is the best form of protection against this disease.

What types of influenza vaccinations are available?

There are 2 types of influenza vaccines available, the injectable influenza vaccine, commonly known as the "flu shot," and the nasal influenza vaccine, FluMist. FluMist is only available for healthy persons between the ages of 2 through 49.

Who should get the influenza vaccine?

In general, it is recommended that anyone who wants to reduce his or her chances of getting the flu should be vaccinated. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that these high-risk groups of people receive a flu vaccine:

All persons, including school-age children, who want to reduce the risk of becoming ill with influenza or of transmitting influenza to others
All children age 6 months to 18 years of age
All persons age 50 years and older
Children and adolescents (age 6 months to 8 years) who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy and who therefore might be at risk for developing Reye syndrome after an influenza virus infection
Women who will be pregnant during the influenza season
Adults and children who have chronic pulmonary (including asthma), cardiovascular (except hypertension), renal, hepatic, hematological, or metabolic disorders (including diabetes mellitus)
Adults and children who have immunosuppression (including immunosuppression caused by medications or by human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV)
Adults and children who have any condition that can compromise respiratory function or the handling of respiratory secretions, or that can increase the risk for aspiration (for example, cognitive dysfunction, spinal cord injuries, seizure disorders, or other neuromuscular disorders)
Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities
Healthcare personnel
Healthy household contacts (including children) and caregivers of children age 5 years and younger and adults age 50 years and older, with particular emphasis on vaccinating contacts of children age 6 months
Healthy household contacts (including children) and caregivers of persons with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for severe complications from influenza.

Who should not get the influenza vaccine?

Certain individuals should not be vaccinated without first consulting a healthcare professional. These people include:

Those with a severe allergy to chicken eggs
Those who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination in the past
Those who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) within six weeks of getting a flu vaccine previously
Children under 6 months of age
Those who have a moderate or severe illness with a fever (these persons should wait to get vaccinated until after their symptoms lessen)
Healthy household contacts (including children) and caregivers of persons with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for severe complications from influenza.

Do I need to get an influenza vaccine every year?

Yes. To be protected from the current circulating influenza viruses, it is recommended that you receive a flu vaccine each year. Influenza viruses change from year to year; therefore, a new vaccine must be created each year, and annual vaccination is necessary.

When should I get an influenza vaccine?

Flu vaccinations are available in most communities beginning in October and continue to be offered throughout the spring or until the vaccine supply is exhausted.

Can I still get influenza after I've been vaccinated?

Yes. As with other vaccines, the influenza vaccine is not 100% effective against all influenza viruses, but it still provides the best form of protection. However, individuals who are vaccinated and still contract the flu usually get a milder case of influenza than they would have had they not been vaccinated.

The vaccine takes effect two weeks after it has been administered; therefore, during this time you maybe susceptible to influenza, just as are individuals who have not received the vaccination.

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