November 12, 2011 The Flu Vaccine
It is time to start thinking about getting the Flu vaccine. There will be flu shot clinics offered in the local area in the upcoming weeks that anyone can go to. Often these clinics are underutilized. There is still a great deal of misunderstanding about the flu vaccine and who should be immunized.
Each year an average of 20,000 people are hospitalized, and between 2,000 and 8,000 Canadians can die of influenza and its complications. Those most likely to suffer complications of the flu are the most vulnerable; children under two and adults over 65. The seasonal influenza vaccine is safe and effective and can benefit people of all ages. The flu shot only provides protection up to 12 months; immunization is required each year. This year’s flu shot protects against the H1N1 flu virus as well as two other strains of flu. October to mid-November is the best time for immunization, but the vaccine may still be given in winter months.
Who should get immunized? The following is a list from the recommended guidelines.
People at high risk of influenza-related complications, including:
- Adults and children with chronic conditions such as:
- Cardiac or lung disorders such as asthma
- - Diabetes mellitus and other metabolic diseases
- - Cancer, immunodeficiency, immunosuppression
- -Renal disease
- Children and adolescents with conditions treated for long periods with aspirin
- All residents of nursing homes or other chronic care facilities
- Seniors aged 65 years or older
- Pregnant women
- Children aged 6 months to 23 months of age
- Persons who are morbidly obese
- Aborigional peoples
People capable of transmitting influenza to those at high risk of complications, including:
- Health care and other care providers
- Household contacts of those at high risk and to infants less than six months
- Members of a household expecting a newborn during flu season
- Women at all stages of pregnancy or breastfeeding mothers
- Those providing regular child care to children 0-23 months
- Those who provide services within closed settings to persons at high risk
- People who provide essential community services
- People in direct contact with avian influenza infected poultry
- Healthy people aged 5-64 years should consider getting the vaccine even if they are not in one of the above groups
The list of those who should receive the vaccine is extensive. If you have had an anaphylactic reaction to the vaccine or one of its components you should not get the vaccine. Or, if you have an allergy to eggs you should discuss getting the vaccine with your health care practitioner. However, it has been shown that egg-allergic individuals may be vaccinated using the TIV vaccine.
Children 6 months to less than 9 years who have never received the seasonal flu vaccine require two doses, with a minimum of four weeks between doses.
Please remember that the flu shot cannot cause the flu. If you have become sick after getting the shot in the past it was a coincidental infection of some other kind. The main side effect is pain and redness at the site of injection for a day or two afterward.
The flu shot is effective. Scientific studies show the effectiveness of the flu shot to range from 70% to 90%.
Adults over 65 should also look in to getting the pneumococcal vaccine. Pneumococcal disease, a common complication of influenza, is a bacterial disease that can cause meningitis, bacteremia (a bloodstream infection) and pneumonia. You can get this vaccine at the same time as the flu shot through your doctor.
To date you must get your flu shot through your doctor or the flu shot clinics in the area. At some point in the near future this vaccine may become available to be given by your pharmacist who will be trained to give injections.
If you have any questions about any of the above information please call or visit your local pharmacy.