It’s time to get your yearly flu vaccine

It’s time to get the annual flu vaccine so you’re ready for flu season, which can run from October to May. Flu activity typically peaks anytime between December and March, and positive flu tests are already showing up this year. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from what can be a serious infection, even for otherwise healthy people.

There are some new recommendations for the flu vaccines this year. Can you talk about those?

The yearly recommendation that everyone over the age of the 6 months get the flu vaccine has not changed. But you will notice the lack of a nasal vaccine this year. It was commonly called the flu mist. Research has shown that it wasn’t as effective as the flu shot for several years, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that people should get the injection instead. 

So researchers think the vaccine will be a good match this year?   

We think so, but it’s difficult to predict so early in the season. Flu viruses are constantly changing. Flu vaccines are updated before the start of flu season each year, based on which influenza viruses are making people sick in other parts of the world.

If it’s so difficult to tell how much protection the vaccine will offer, why should people get it?

We recommend flu vaccine each year because it prevents illness, and more than that, it prevents serious illness. Each year in the United States, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications. Between 3,000 and 49,000 people die each year, depending on the virus; some are more deadly than others. Every flu season is unique, and flu viruses affect different people in different ways depending on their age and overall health. This is why the CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine. Even if it doesn’t offer complete protection, it could lessen the severity of illness if you do get the flu.

Who might be considered high risk for flu-related complications?

It’s especially important that people with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, young children and people older than 65 get vaccinated because they are at higher risk of having serious flu-related complications. Anyone who lives with or cares for very young babies or people who are at high risk for developing complications should also get vaccinated.

Every year, I hear at least one person say they got the vaccine and then they got sick. Is it possible to get the flu from a vaccine?  

It’s simply not possible. It’s likely they were already infected with a virus or they got infected in the two weeks after they got the vaccine. That’s about how long it takes for your body to create the antibodies needed to combat the flu, so while your body is building immunity, you could still get sick. You could also become infected with a strain of flu virus that isn’t covered by the vaccine. It’s important to remember that the vaccine reduces your risk for illness, but it doesn’t completely eliminate it.

If I’ve already had the flu, can I get it again this year?

That would be extremely unlucky, but it depends on how many strains are in circulation. You can develop short-term immunity to the flu virus you had, but there may be other flu viruses circulating. You could get it more than once in a season. Your best bet is to get vaccinated. Wash your hands often to avoid infection, and if you do feel sick, stay home to avoid infecting others.

(Note: A Closer Look At Your Health airs at 6:50 a.m. most Tuesdays on KBOI News Radio 670. This is an edited transcript from the one on Oct. 4.) 

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