Take your flu vaccine as soon as it is available

As school bells ring out announcing a new school year and pigskins fly through the air announcing the arrival of a new football season, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) begins its annual influenza vaccine campaign.  “Flu” or influenza is a viral illness associated with fever, severe muscle aches, general malaise and respiratory symptoms.  Most healthy children and adults can run a fever for 5 – 7 days and fight off the infection over a 10 day to three week period.  There is clearly a long period of malaise and debilitation in many that lasts for weeks after the acute febrile illness resolves.

The illness is especially severe and often lethal in the elderly, in infants, in patients with asthma and chronic lung disease and in those patients who have a weakened immune system due to disease or cancer treatments. Diabetics and heart patients are particularly vulnerable to the lethal effects of unchecked influenza.

The CDC recommends vaccinating all Americans over six years old against influenza.  Adults can receive an injection, or a nasal application.  The 2012 – 2013 vaccine has been updated from the 2011 – 2012 version based on samplings of current influenza viruses spreading around the world.   It takes about two weeks to develop antibodies and immunity to influenza after you receive the vaccination.  If you received the vaccine last season or had the flu last season you are still advised to receive the 2012 – 2013 vaccine this year because immunity fades with time.  Flu vaccine should have arrived in most physician offices and community health centers and pharmacies by mid- August.  The CDC advises taking the shot as soon as it is available.

The vaccines used are not live viruses so one cannot catch the flu from the vaccine. Side effects usually include warmth and tenderness at the injection site and rarely general malaise and low grade fever a day or so later.  The benefits of receiving the vaccine far outweigh these minor and rare ill effects which can be treated with an ice pack to the injection site and some acetaminophen.  Please call your doctor to set up an appointment for a flu vaccine.

For those individuals who catch the flu we still have several antiviral agents available to treat the illness. These agents should decrease the intensity or severity and duration of the flu. We try to use these medicines as infrequently as possible because the flu can develop resistance to them over time.

Prevention of disease is an ever increasing component of our everyday language. Vaccination against an infectious disease such as flu or influenza is clearly one of the more effective preventive strategies physicians have available to offer patients.  While you are making arrangements to receive your flu shot inquire about several other effective adult vaccines including Pneumovax to prevent bacterial pneumonia, Zostavax to prevent shingles and post herpetic neuralgia and Tdap to prevent whooping cough or pertussis and tetanus.

Steven Reznick is an internal medicine physician and can be reached at Boca Raton Concierge Doctor.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/sharonmoconnor2 Sharon M. O’Connor

    Have you taken a look at the CDC website? It says that the effectiveness of the flu vaccine seems to be related to who funded the studies Those funded by the pharmaceutical companies show better results than independent studies. It seems as if 100 people need to be vaccinated to prevent one case of the flu and the rates of “Serious” side effects varies from 3-6%.

    • gwen rothberg

      The divination process that virologists use is the equivilent of a crap shoot in Vegas. Until manufacturers can produce an allergy free vaccine, with proven efficacy of something north of the 30% of seasons past , all the bru-ha ha about mandatory healthcare worker vaccine protocols is just going to be another episode of ‘cry wolf’, further complicating the times when there really IS a pandemic problem. The H1N1 dud blew a hole in public credibility, so do we really want to go there again with sweeping mandates about compulsory vaccines at the workplace? We handle MRSA, VRE, TB, viral meningitis and all sorts of nastiness on a daily basis, and because of our techinique, we do so pretty safely. I cannot help but think that mandatory shots – the get one or get fired variety that are picking up speed in some markets – is just another certified marketing ploy. Magnet and magnet-lite consumer badge dealers are homing in on it, even though the reduction in cases in hosptials with 60% vaccination rates is 11% over the season. And a goal of 90% sounds good on paper, but they make no effort to take responsibility by those that may be harmed by complications from the shots and will dump their employees on the shot fund if they have problems. If the flu shot had a proven record, like MMR, polio and varicella, with consistent quality control, unlike some injectables of late, then maybe we could take them seriously. As it stands, I’ll wait till they get a better vaccine, do good hand washing and cover my cough or mask and gown up in suspect rooms. In 20 years of working the floor during flu season I have not had a shot or the flu, so I’m going to hypothesize that I’m doing it right.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=881580563 Kristy Sokoloski

    I had to see my PCP for some other issues on Friday, some of them related to some things that I needed to get done for Nursing School. While there I had my first ever flu shot.

  • http://www.zdoggmd.com ZDoggMD

    Blam! We teamed up with Zappos.com for an epic Flu Review music extravaganza: http://zdoggmd.com/2012/08/one-injection-flu-shot/

  • drjoekosterich

    The Cochrane Collaboration has found after reviewing 75 studies over 40 years that no benefit could be found for flu vaccination in the elderly. In younger ages the trials were of dubious merit and the results “spun” to give the best impression.
    “Influenza vaccines have a modest effect in reducing influenza symptoms and working days lost. There is no evidence that they affect complications, such as pneumonia, or transmission.”
    If we are serious about evidence based medicine why is the “everyone should have a flu shot” still promoted

  • PrecipMom

    I love the flu vaccine, but this article is really not well done. Pieces that are missing from it, or are wrong:

    The flumist nasal spray *is* a live vaccine.
    The degree to which influenza mutates is the main reason for getting annual flu vaccines. Not that the flu vaccine is a bad vaccine that only lasts for a few months.
    The nasal flu vaccine (flumist) is approved for children over age 2, not just adults, and is more effective for children than the inactivated flu shot.
    Adults get better protection from the flu shot than the flu mist.
    Pregnant mothers are encouraged to get the flu vaccine because it lowers their risk and the risk to their babies during pregnancy, and even offers some protection to their babies after birth.

    I love immunizations, but this article should have been miles better than what it was. Maybe someone ought to invite Melody Butler from Nurses Who Vaccinate to do a guest post?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1233923671 Catryna White

    I’m 63 years old and remember 1976, so no thanks! And, no thanks to any vaccines, they have caused too much damage to me and mine.

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