Flu shots: A pinch in the arm, but not al­ways in your wal­let

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - MONEY & MARKETS EXTRA - By Mike Sto­bbe AP Med­i­cal Writer

It's flu shot sea­son, but the pinch of a shot doesn't have to also hurt your wal­let.

Health of­fi­cials rec­om­mend that nearly all Amer­i­cans get flu vac­ci­na­tions to blunt the im­pact of a dis­ease that an­nu­ally in­fects mil­lions.

Roughly 145 mil­lion Amer­i­cans get flu shots each year, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion. That count rep­re­sents about 60 per­cent of chil­dren and 40 per­cent of adults.

Here's what you need to know about get­ting vac­ci­nated: WHERE, AND HOW MUCH The good news is many peo­ple don't have to pay any­thing. The Af­ford­able Care Act re­quired in­sur­ers to cover the cost of pa­tients' flu shots with­out charg­ing a co­pay, although some in­sur­ers only cover vac­cines given by doc­tors or at cer­tain lo­ca­tions.

A gov­ern­ment pro­gram also pays for shots for low-in­come chil­dren.

Tra­di­tion­ally, most peo­ple have got­ten flu vac­ci­na­tions at doc­tors' of­fices or health de­part­ments. But phar­ma­cies and work­places have be­come ma­jor venues for vac­ci­na­tions, es­pe­cially for adults.

CDC of­fi­cials say they don't have a break­down of how many peo­ple pay for shots and how many have it cov­ered.

For those pay­ing cash, phar­ma­cies gen­er­ally charge $20 to $45 per shot, but the price can vary based on which drug­store you visit. Also, the cost can rise to $70 or more if you get the higher-dose ver­sion of vac­cine of­fered to se­niors.

Some phar­ma­cies of­fer dis­counts and other en­tice­ments. For ex­am­ple, CVS is of­fer­ing cus­tomers at some of its phar­ma­cies a $5 coupon re­deemable at Tar­get stores.

Web sites like https://vac­cinefinder.org/ can help lo­cate where doses are avail­able. BEN­E­FITS AND TYPES Ac­cord­ing to the CDC, flu costs the na­tion about $7 bil­lion a year in sick days and lost pro­duc­tiv­ity among work­ing-age adults. That's not to men­tion the heavy toll of hos­pi­tal­iza­tions and deaths that oc­cur mainly among peo­ple 65 and older.

The vac­cine is con­sid­ered the best avail­able tool in fight­ing flu, but it's not per­fect.

Flu viruses are rapidly chang­ing, and it's tough to make a highly ef­fec­tive vac­cine against it. That's es­pe­cially true when it comes to pro­tect­ing the el­derly. Dur­ing last win­ter's flu sea­son, vac­cines barely worked at all in keeping se­niors out of the hos­pi­tal, with roughly 24 per­cent ef­fec­tive­ness.

Still, even a dis­ap­point­ing vac­cine lessens the sever­ity of ill­ness and saves many lives, of­fi­cials say.

Five com­pa­nies make flu vac­cine for the U.S. mar­ket. More than 80 per­cent of doses are de­signed to pro­tect against four flu strains. The oth­ers pro­tect against three.

One com­pany of­fers a nasal spray ver­sion of flu vac­cine, but health ex­perts re­cently have been de­bat­ing whether it's as good as shots. WHEN TO GET VAC­CI­NATED The CDC urges peo­ple to get their flu shots by the end of Oc­to­ber.

Health of­fi­cials want peo­ple to be vac­ci­nated be­fore flu sea­son hits, and in sev­eral re­cent years the ill­ness has ramped up in some parts of the coun­try as early as Novem­ber. Also, chil­dren who are be­ing vac­ci­nated for the first time are sup­posed to get two doses about four weeks apart, so it's im­por­tant to get that go­ing soon.

But some doc­tors think the vac­cine has been dis­ap­point­ing in some sea­sons be­cause its pro­tec­tion can fade quickly against cer­tain flu viruses, ap­par­ently most dra­mat­i­cally in peo­ple 65 and older. The ob­ser­va­tion hasn't been ex­ten­sively re­searched, but it's pos­si­ble that se­nior cit­i­zens who are vac­ci­nated in Septem­ber may not be well pro­tected in Fe­bru­ary.

Con­cerns about fad­ing ef­fec­tive­ness are “def­i­nitely some­thing to con­sider, but it's not some­thing at this point that we re­ally know how to bal­ance out with other is­sues,” said Dr. Lisa Grohskopf, a med­i­cal of­fi­cer in the CDC's In­fluenza Divi­sion.

Be­cause CDC wants peo­ple pro­tected if flu breaks out early, “Oc­to­ber as a rule of thumb is not un­rea­son­able,” she said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.