With flu season around the corner, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending those six months or older to receive a flu shot.
The CDC recommends, given the unpredictability of the onset of influenza season and concerns of waning immunity over time, “that vaccination should be offered by the end of October,” according to the CDC’s report for the 2019-20 flu season. The flu shot causes antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. Traditional flu vaccines are made to protect against three strains of the virus, but some are designed against four different strains.
Dr. Richard Klasco in The New York Times agreed that “for most people, sometime in October is best” for receiving a flu shot.
While many recover from influenza, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told the Associated Press an “estimated 80,000 Americans died of flu and its complications” in 2017, the highest total in at least 40 years. The CDC also stated some children between six months and 8 years of age should get two doses of the vaccine, as in previous seasons. For example, during the 2016-2017 season, flu vaccination prevented an estimated 85,000 flu-related hospitalizations, according to the CDC.
“There is treatment for Influenza but there is prevention through vaccination,” Dr. Carol Encarnacion, an infection disease specialist at Meadville Medical Center, said in an email. “As always, cover your cough to decrease the spread of infections and wash your hands.”
Locally, Mill Run Community Pharmacy in Meadville hosted a flu clinic on Oct. 4 to encourage folks to get a flu shot.
Alex Mattocks, staff pharmacist at Mill Run, said they usually start seeing flu season pop up from December to March, but they have had cases in October before. He recommended people who are in close contact with colleagues or the public for work, the elderly or those with high risk health concerns to get a flu shot.
“Just to help you boost your immune system, give you a better chance of not getting the flu,” Mattocks said. “It’s not always 100 percent effective, but it’s worth getting, in my opinion. We give flu shots every day, all day long. Last week, I did 75.”
He also said some have counterintuitive ideas about what the flu shot contains and causes.
“I’ve had people tell me, ‘I’ve had the flu shot before. I’m not getting it again because I got the flu,’” Mattocks said. “It’s not a live vaccine. It’s a killed vaccine, so therefore, it’s not going to cause the flu. That’s probably the biggest misconception.”
Those who have the flu virus but are showing no symptoms can still transmit the virus to others, said Dr. Tanaya Bhowmick at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at Rutgers University in a release.
“Those people may still spread the virus to others, especially vulnerable populations like the elderly, children and those who have an impaired immune system, such as cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and people with HIV or pulmonary disease,” Bhowmick said. “Having the vaccination will stop the virus from infecting others.”
She also said FluMist, the nasal spray version of the vaccine, can be administered to those ages 2 to 49, “has been reformulated and it’s believed to be just as effective as the injection.”
Dr. David Cennimo, Bhowmick’s colleague at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, also said in the release that vaccine efficacy is approximately six months, and peak flu season is between December and February.
“If you receive your flu shot in September and the flu season runs later, you are not as well protected during those months,” Cennimo said. “But if you delay receiving the vaccine, there’s a chance you might not get around to it.”
Tyler Dague can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.