By eMedical Urgent Care Offices
The leaves have changed color and the air is much cooler; meteorologist would say we’ve entered autumn but for physicians, it is the start of flu season. Our urgent care office is full of sneezing, aching and coughing patients — many of whom did not receive the flu vaccination. When I bring up vaccination in conversation, patients seem confused or hesitant about receiving the vaccine. So that you can make an informed decision about receiving the vaccine, here are answers to some common questions about this issue.
Should I get the flu vaccine this year?
The short answer is yes. Vaccination is the main way to protect yourself from the flu. Since 2010, the recommendation from the CDC has been to vaccinate all individuals older than 6 months. If you are a young and healthy adult, the reason for this is not only to reduce your own chance of getting infected, but also to protect the people in your life who might be more prone to flu complications, such as children, elderly and people with chronic diseases.
Will last year’s vaccine protect me this year too?
Probably not. Even if some of last year’s viral strains still are circulating this year, chances are your antibody levels have dropped to the point where you no longer benefit from them. The current recommendations support getting vaccinating every year.
Are we expecting new strains of the flu virus this year?
No, not more than in any given year. Which strains of the virus will circulate in a season can be predicted by scientists to a certain extent, and vaccine manufacturers include those strains in the vaccine they produce. However, new strains do appear, more likely toward the end of the flu season.
How effective is the flu vaccine?
It is too early to tell for this year, but historically its effectiveness has ranged between 50 percent and 75 percent. Last year the vaccine’s effectiveness was a disappointing 56 percent. The effectiveness varies depending on the recipient’s age and health status, and by how good of a match there is between the expected and actual strains of the virus.
Who should get the flu vaccine?
Everyone 6 months and older should visit their doctor or urgent care office to be vaccinated, but especially people at risk for serious complications (pregnant women, children under 5 years of age and people with asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease) or those who live with or care for them.
Why do some people feel sick a few days after being vaccinated against the flu?
The flu shot may cause mild side effects that are sometimes mistaken for the flu, such as low-grade fever, muscle pain and fatigue. These are signs of immune system activation and antibody production, and do not mean you got the flu from the vaccine.
What flu viruses does this season’s vaccine protect again?
The trivalent influenza vaccine that has been available in the past years offers protection against two influenza A viruses (H1N1 California and H3N2 Victoria) and one influenza B virus (Massachusetts). This year, the new quadrivalent vaccine includes a fourth strain, the B Brisbane virus.
Why was this fourth virus added to the mix?
Type A flu causes more serious disease and more deaths, especially the H3N2, but there are 2 type B families of viruses that circulate the globe. This year, to eliminate the guesswork regarding which one we’d see in the United States, they were both included in the quadrivalent varieties (Fluzone, Fluarix and FluLaval).
Should I get the quadrivalent or trivalent vaccine?
The quadrivalent vaccines are a better choice for children, as they tend to catch the newly added strain more often. The new vaccine only accounts for 30 million doses out of the more than 135 million available this season, so if you do not find the quadrivalent vaccine available in your area, the trivalent one is an excellent choice too. The CDC does not recommend one over the other.
What other kinds of flu vaccines are available for the 2013-2014 season?*
Clinicians are moving from a one-size-fits-all to individualized vaccination, a good thing once you understand how they are alike and how they are different.
- The Flumist quadrivalent is a nasal spray for healthy people ages 2 to 49 who are not pregnant. If you are not in this category, you still can get the regular quadrivalent shot.
- The Flublok is a new formulation specifically designed for people who are allergic to eggs. It can be used only in healthy adults between 18 and 49 years of age.
- The Fluzone High Dose is recommended for people age 65 and older. Four-times stronger, this vaccine offers a 24 percent higher immunity, as demonstrated in a clinical study of 30,000 people.
- The Fluzone Intradermal is a formulation of the trivalent vaccine for ages 18-64 that is delivered through the skin instead of intramuscularly via a much smaller needle.
So which vaccine should I get?
Depending on which category you fit in, you might have more than one option, but which vaccine you receive is not as important as getting vaccinated in the first place.
You prepare for Thanksgiving and the holidays too, but give some thought about preparing for the flu. eMedical Offices urgent care center is offering flu shots on Black Friday, Nov. 29, for only $25. Visit social media pages and website for health-related news and special offers.
If you need medical attention for a non-life-threatening illness or injury, eMedical Urgent Care Offices is open during the evening hours to treat walk-in patients. If you have questions about medical conditions, download iTriage from the iTunes or Android Marketplace, or check out iTriageHealth.com for your healthcare answers.
*eMedical Urgent Care Offices offers the quadrivalent and trivalent vaccine