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Flu Vaccine

Spread joy, not influenza, this holiday season!

Protect your whole family from influenza this season by getting your flu shot! Here’s a run-down on all you need to know about staying healthy this season with a few changes that are important to note: shots only and new recommendations for people with egg allergies.

New for the 2016-17 season: The most important change for this flu season is that only the injectable vaccine is available and recommended. That means everyone (over 6 months of age) gets a flu shot this year instead of nasal spray. A few other important things to note, flu vaccines have been updated to match the circulating viruses out there and recommendations for vaccination of people with egg allergies have changed. If you have an egg allergy here’s a link to more information, and of course always talk to your health care provider if you have questions!

Flu vaccine is safe: The vaccine is given to millions of people in the US and around the world every year. The strains may change from one year to the next but vaccines are always thoroughly tested and are safe.

The flu shot can’t give you the flu: It’s impossible to get the flu from the flu shot because the vaccine doesn’t contain live viruses. A small number of people experience side effects like achy muscles but this is simply the immune system responding to the vaccine and showing your body that the vaccine is working!

You need the vaccine every year: You won’t be protected from last years shot; there are always new strains of flu circulating. The composition of the flu vaccine is looked at each year and always updated to ensure the best chance of matching the flu viruses that are circulating.

Anyone can get the flu: One of the most common reasons for not getting vaccinated is “I’ve never had the flu before.” There’s no such thing as natural immunity to the flu; it’s best to get vaccinated each year.

Flu vaccine protects the community and you: It’s not just about protecting yourself, it’s also about protecting your colleagues, community, family, elderly, those immunocompromised and those too young to get the vaccine. Did you know that you can carry and pass on the virus to others without having any symptoms yourself?

Healthy diets won’t prevent flu: Your diet could help boost your immune system, but eating well and taking vitamins won’t protect you from flu. The best protection is the flu vaccine.

Pregnant women can and should be vaccinated: Pregnant women can get vaccinated at any stage of pregnancy. Having the vaccination while pregnant also helps protect your baby from flu over the first few months of life.

And the extra awesome super-duper bonus, drumroll please…. Flu vaccine is free and it’s very easy to get vaccinated: Your health insurance will pay for the full cost of the vaccine and you can get it by simply walking into most local pharmacies – no appointments, no copays, no excuses! Use the Vaccine Finder to locate a clinic or pharmacy near you. You can also connect with us through www.Parenthelp123.org or by calling the Family Health Hotline 1-800-322-2588 to find a free clinic near you!

Tags: flu   flu shot   Flu Vaccine   

It’s time to give the flu vaccine the respect it deserves

Recently, I was talking with my pro-vaccine friends who became parents not too long ago. They have an eight-month old baby and are following the CDC’s recommended childhood vaccination schedule. They consider themselves to be strong vaccine supporters and trust in the science of vaccination and the protection vaccines provide. You can find Facebook posts of their baby immediately following her vaccine doses. In the pictures she’s smiling with captions like: “I got fully vaccinated and this is how happy I am about it only 3 minutes later.” However, when I brought up the flu shot they were quick to dismiss it.

Why is the flu vaccine viewed differently from other vaccines?

If I’m perfectly honest, there was a time when I too thought of the flu vaccine as somehow inferior and less important than the other vaccines. Data shows that I am not alone. Even though the flu vaccine is nearly universally recommended for individuals over 6 months old, it has one of the lowest coverage rates when compared to other vaccines. Last year, less than half of those eligible received the vaccine. People often opt out of the flu vaccine due to some key misunderstandings, but below are the compelling facts for consideration.

Here are the facts about flu strains.

Unlike other viruses, the flu is constantly changing. Each year influenza experts predict which strains of the virus will be most common and develop a vaccine to protect against those strains. Some years these predictions are better than others. The good news is that even when the vaccine does not match with the circulating viruses as perfectly as we hope, some protection is still better than no protection. And more good news: early tests indicate that this year’s vaccine is a better match than last, which will make it more effective against preventing the flu.

The flu vaccine cannot cause the flu.

The vaccine is comprised of either dead or weakened virus strains (depending on which vaccine you receive) making your likelihood of contracting the flu from the vaccine impossible. The flu vaccine takes up to 2 weeks to provide protection, so get your shot early to maximize its benefit.

The flu can be miserable and dangerous even for healthy people.

I used to think I was tougher than the flu. My immune system is strong – I can handle the flu. Let’s assume I’m right and that I survive two weeks of muscle aches, chills, sweats, fevers and vomiting caused by the flu. Many aren’t so lucky and by hosting the flu virus, I could pass it to others when I’m infected but have no symptoms. The flu is most dangerous for those 65 and over and infants under two, as well as people with common health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and even pregnant women. Each year, thousands of hospitalizations and deaths are a result of the flu. By getting the vaccine, I not only protect myself from the dreadful symptoms but I also protect those around me who may be at a higher risk of suffering serious complications.

So get out there and get your flu shot! I may not have been able to persuade my friends but I’ll keep presenting them with the facts. The flu vaccine is available at pharmacies and doctor’s offices. I got mine and feel happy about not only protecting myself but relieved to be protecting vulnerable individuals in my community.


Tags: CDC   flu shot   Flu Vaccine   immunizations   Public Health   

Concerned About Ebola?

Consider protecting yourself against something that might actually harm you.
While West Africa’s Ebola epidemic has been devastating parts of the region for many months now, popular media coverage of the disease has intensified as it has slowly migrated to new countries and continents. We are seeing near-constant debate and discussion about the prospect of outbreaks outside West Africa, and especially how to implement quarantines and monitor travelers. When two nurses who cared for a patient with Ebola contracted the disease on American soil, anxieties were fueled.
But we must step back and be as rational as possible…stated another way, at the time of this writing exactly 2 of 300 million+ Americans have contracted the disease in the United States, so our odds of NOT contracting Ebola domestically are the best of any communicable disease currently in circulation. Yet, recent polling shows that 25% of Americans believe Ebola is a major public health threat (1). There will probably be more cases, and Ebola will continue to cause morbidity and mortality, especially in places with the deadly combination of low education attainment, high poverty, and weak health systems—but we will not see a widespread epidemic in the United States.
And yet there is a threat that will kill thousands of Americans this year and sicken many more: the flu. While 5 to 20% of Americans will get the flu in any given year, Americans clearly don’t perceive themselves at great risk for this disease because only 58.9% of children and 42.2% of adults got the flu vaccine in 2012 (2). This means that more than half of adults are choosing not to protect themselves and their communities from a disease over which we can exert a great deal of control. Even if the non-vaccinated people don’t die or get seriously ill from the flu, they may pass it to someone for whom the consequences are much worse. And although some people, such as the young and elderly, are at an increased risk, the flu causes serious illness and even death in healthy people of all ages each year.
While there are many other reasons to be deeply concerned about coverage of Ebola (for the racism and xenophobia inherent in narratives of the disease, for the way it mimics problematic judgements seen with past epidemics like HIV, for the inflammatory nature of some public discussions, etc.), in the immunization world we seek to re-ground people in the diseases that they’re actually at risk of and to remind them of the control they do have, which involves getting a flu vaccine annually.
When Ebola comes up in your conversations, please consider using it as an opportunity to remind people of the ways they can contribute to the health of their community. We have a strong health care and public health infrastructure in the United States, and it rests, on some level, on everybody doing their part. Getting a flu vaccine is one way to contribute. To find out where to get a flu vaccine, visit the vaccine finder.
(1) The Harris Poll; Pritish Tosh, M.D., infectious diseases physician and researcher, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
(2) “Flu Vaccination Coverage, United States, 2013-2014 Influenza Season.” Centers for Disease Control. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/fluvaxview/coverage-1314estimates.htm


Tags: Community Health   Ebola   Flu Vaccine   Immunization   protection   Public Health   

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