A Shot at Avoiding the Flu
Each year around this time, as temperatures begin to fall, we’re faced with a decision to make: should we get a flu shot? While the shot may not provide total protection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer several compelling reasons why you should get one.
Influenza, what we commonly call the flu, is a respiratory condition that can cause serious complications. Young children and older adults are especially susceptible and are at the greatest risk for hospitalization. While flu vaccines are not 100 percent effective, they do offer the best protection.
The CDC offers the following additional guidelines:
Who should get a flu shot?
The CDC recommends that everyone six months of age and older be vaccinated every year. It’s also important that people who are at higher risks of complication be vaccinated. This group includes pregnant women, older adults and young children.
The CDC also strongly recommends the vaccine for people with the following conditions: Asthma Chronic lung disease such as COPD and cystic fibrosis Diabetes
Heart disease Kidney or liver disorders
HIV, AIDS or cancer Extreme obesity
If you have an egg allergy or if you’ve had a severe reaction to a previous flu vaccine, it’s important that you talk to your doctor before receiving one this year.
Why do I need a flu vaccine every year?
A flu vaccine is needed every season for two reasons. First, the body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection. Second, because flu viruses are constantly changing, the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and updated as needed to keep up with changing flu viruses.
Can I get the flu even though I got a flu vaccine this year?
Yes. It’s possible to get sick with flu even if you have been vaccinated (although you won’t know for sure unless you get a flu test). This is possible for the following reasons:
You may be exposed to a flu virus shortly before getting vaccinated or during the period that it takes the body to gain protection after getting vaccinated. This exposure may result in you becoming ill with flu before the vaccine begins to protect you. Flu vaccines usually take about two weeks for antibodies to develop that offer protection.
You may be exposed to a flu virus that is not included in the seasonal flu vaccine. There are many different flu viruses that circulate every year. A flu vaccine is made to protect against the three or four flu viruses that research suggests will be most common.
Unfortunately, some people can become infected with a flu virus the vaccine is designed to protect against, despite getting vaccinated. Protection provided by flu vaccination can vary widely and is partially dependent on the health and age of the person getting vaccinated. In general, a flu vaccine works best among healthy younger adults and older children. Some older people and people with certain chronic illnesses may develop less immunity after vaccination.
Flu vaccination is not a perfect tool, but it is the best way to protect against flu infection. If you have any questions or concerns about receiving the vaccination this season, please consult your physician. If you don’t have a family physician, the flu vaccine is available at several locations throughout Polk County, including all Floyd Urgent Care offices.
Tifani Kinard is the Hospital Administrator and Chief Nursing Officer at Polk Medical Center.