Speaking of Health – Flu Vaccine

By Gilda Morales, ANP, DC

As we near the first days of October, and flu season, this column will address common myths and misunderstanding about the flu vaccine as provided by the Center for Disease Control.  Getting the annual flu vaccine is the most effective way to protect yourself and your family from the flu, doctors’ visits, missed work and school and complications leading to hospitalization.  The most vulnerable portions of the population, the elderly, the very young, and people with certain health issues, like asthma, are especially vulnerable and should be the first to line up for the annual vaccination.

Unlike other years, only the injectable forms of the vaccine, which have been formulated to protect against three to four types of influenza viruses, will be available, and the recommendations for people with egg allergies have also been updated.  There are several options available this year including a higher dose shot for older people and a new vaccine that does not require the use of the flu virus.  This year, the nasal spray version of the vaccine will not be available.

As for who should get the flu shot?  Everyone six months of age and older should get the flu vaccine by the end of October, but later is acceptable since the flu season may go all the way into May, with the peak occurring between December and May.  Children who have only received one dose of the vaccine may need two doses, but that determination should come from the child’s pediatrician.

People with egg allergies can now get the vaccine if the only reaction they have experienced is hives, and they no longer have to wait 30 minutes after receiving their vaccines.

There are other misconceptions about the flu, including the more common one that has been perpetuated for a long time, that getting the flu shot will give you the flu.  This myth is impossible since the vaccine is made from an inactivated form of the virus or with no virus at all.  The more common side effects are the result of the actual injection and more commonly includes redness and soreness at the injection site or low grade fever and headache, but very rarely.  The side effects, if any, are very mild and may last 1-2 days, much less severe than contracting the actual flu.  Flu can be a very serious disease, so getting vaccinated is a much safer choice that risking illness to obtain immunity.

Flu immunization is available now at the Van Horn Rural Health Clinic and requires only a nurse’s visit.  Call soon and schedule your injection at 432-283-1020.