Top 11 Reasons Why You Should Get Your Flu Vaccine Now
You'll Miss Work, School, and Maybe a Paycheck
No doubt, if you have your choice between getting the flu and going to work or class, you should prefer the latter.
Each year, the flu season results in millions of lost work days at a cost of billions of dollars. Although the CDC says people should get a flu vaccine when available -- typically in late summer/early fall -- many people wait too long, or never get it at all.
However, it's important to know that the flu vaccine is not 100% effective in preventing flu, but it drastically reduces your chances. In the previous 2015-2016 flu season, the CDC reported that the flu vaccine was 60 percent effective at preventing flu, similar to other seasons. Hand washing and avoiding those with the flu makes good sense, too.
Options and CDC Updates: 2016-2017
Here are two other options for adults ages 18 to 64 who hate needles: Fluzone Intradermal has a very short needle and is given as an intradermal (in the skin) injection, which may be less painful. Afluria is used with the Stratis needle-free jet injector and is now FDA-approved.
An important update: for the 2016-2017 flu season the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that the nasal spray flu vaccine (FluMist Quadrivalent) NOT be used as a flu vaccine due to low effectiveness in the previous flu season. However, CDC still DOES recommend the inactivated influenza vaccine or recombinant influenza vaccine for everyone 6 months and older. This means everyone eligible should get a shot this year.
Look Out For Your Little One
Each year thousands of children under the age of 5 are hospitalized due to influenza. Children younger than 5 -- but especially children under 2 years -- are especially at risk of severe flu infection. Sadly, last year, over 70 children under the age of 16 died from flu complications. Children with health problems like asthma or diabetes are at a high risk of developing complications, too.
In the 2016-2017 flu season, the ACIP group recommends either the use of the inactivated influenza vaccine or the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV) for everyone aged 6 months or older who is eligible. In 2016-17 ACIP does NOT recommend the nasal flu vaccine (FluMist Quadrivalent) do to poor flu coverage last year. Children 6 months to 8 years require 2 vaccine doses (given ≥4 weeks apart) during their first season of vaccination.
2016-2017 Flu Strains
Quadrivalent versions of the flu vaccine are now available that protect against A and B strains of influenza (4 strains total). Fluarix Quadrivalent vaccine can be used in ages 3 and up, while and FluLaval Quadrivalent is okayed for ages 6 months and older; Fluzone and Afluria Quadrivalent can be given if 6 months or older. Flublok Quadrivalent, a high antigen content formulation can be used in adults 18 years and older. FluMist Quadrivalent (live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV4) nasal vaccine is NOT recommended for use in the 2016-2017 flu season.
Quadrivalent vaccines can give broader protection during the flu season, but experts state not to delay getting your vaccine if a particular formulation is not available. Strains in the 2016–17 U.S. trivalent influenza vaccines will be A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)–like virus, A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)–like virus, and a B/Brisbane/60/2008–like virus (Victoria lineage). Quadrivalent vaccines will include an additional influenza B virus strain, a B/Phuket/3073/2013–like virus (Yamagata lineage).
The Flu Vaccine is Affordable and Convenient
The flu vaccine (see all the options here) has never been easier to get. You don't have to wait in long lines or make a future appointment - the flu vaccine can be found at most pharmacies and major retailers such as Target/CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and Rite-Aid.
Across the country, most pharmacists are now licensed to immunize, meaning they can give you the vaccine with little waiting. In addition, most pharmacies or clinics will accept insurance for the vaccine which results in little or no copay to you.
If you have no insurance, check to see if your local health clinic or retail pharmacy is offering free vaccines. Even if you have to pay, the average $30 cash fee is well worth the price.
Seniors Can Get Even More Protection
Fluzone High Dose vaccine is specifically made for adults 65 years of age and older. Fluzone, a trivalent vaccine, contains 4 times the amount of antigen of the regular flu vaccine. Flublok Quadrivalent is used in adults 18 years and older and contains 3 times the active ingredients of other quadrivalents. Boosting the immune system is especially important for older or immunocompromised patients who are at a greater risk of flu complications.
The FDA also approved Fluad (influenza vaccine, adjuvanted), a trivalent flu vaccine injection for adults 65 years and older. Fluad contains the adjuvant squalene, a naturally occurring substance found in humans, animals and plants. Adjuvants are incorporated into some vaccine formulations to boost the immune response. Side effects from flu shots may include injection site soreness, fever, headache, and fatigue.
Yes: You Need A Flu Vaccine Every Year
You can't predict the severity of the flu season, and flu vaccine effectiveness does not last from year to year.
In fact, each year experts research which flu strains are most likely to be circulating, so the strains that make up the flu vaccine may change, as they have this year.
In addition, studies have shown that the body's ability to fight off the flu after a vaccine wanes over time, so that's another reason why you need a vaccine each year - as soon it's available according to the CDC - preferably by October. It takes 14 days for immunity to build to fight the virus, so don't expect immediate protection.
One Shot Can Protect You and Your Newborn
The U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends an annual flu vaccine for anyone 6 months of age or older, including pregnant women, if there are no contraindications. Pregnant women cannot use live vaccines and must receive the inactivated influenza vaccine.
However, there's an added value to the seasonal flu vaccine for pregnant women - not only does it protect them against the flu, it also protects their newborn infants for up to the first few months of life at least - at a time when infants are too young to receive the vaccine themselves.
Early Fall is the Perfect Time
Get your flu vaccine as soon as it is available each year. Flu season can start early, and it takes about two weeks after your vaccination for the full antibody effect to develop and provide flu protection. That’s why it’s better to get vaccinated in August, September or early October, before the flu season really kicks in.
But it's never too late to get the flu vaccine if you miss out. Seasonal influenza disease usually peaks in January and February most years, but can occur as late as May or as early as December (as it did in 2013). And be sure to get re-vaccinated each fall!
Those with Egg Allergy Have an Option
If you are allergic to eggs you can still be protected. Some flu vaccines are made with egg proteins. However, there is now an option for patients with a history of hives related to egg exposure - FluBlok for people 18 years and older. Flublok, a trivalent vaccine, does not contain egg proteins.
In general, patients with egg allergies can still get other inactivated flu vaccines, including Flucelvax in adults, with their doctors okay. All patients should be observed for at least 15 minutes after vaccination for signs of any allergic reaction or fainting so treatment can be given.
New for this year: Anyone with a severe history of egg allergy (i.e., any symptom other than hives) should be vaccinated in an inpatient or outpatient medical setting under the supervision of a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic conditions.
History Has Proven: The Flu is a Monster
If you've ever had the flu, you know it's not your average virus. The illness can land you flat on your back and its effects can span 2 weeks or longer. For kids under 2, seniors, and people with chronic health conditions like asthma, heart disease or diabetes, the flu can be especially severe or even fatal. Dehydration, worsening of health conditions, and pneumonia are all possibilities.
And, NO, the flu vaccine CANNOT cause the flu (just in case you are trying to use this excuse in a last ditch effort). The vaccine is made up of inactivated (killed) or weakened viruses that have no ability to infect the lungs. So, go on - you're out of excuses - fight off the flu monster today and go get your vaccine.
Finished: Top 11 Reasons Why You Should Get Your Flu Vaccine Now
- US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ACIP votes down use of LAIV for 2016-2017 flu season. June 22, 2016. Accessed 11/212016 at http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/s0622-laiv-flu.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): MMWR. Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — United States, 2016–17 Influenza Season. August 26, 2016 / 65(5);1–54. Accessed 11/21/2016 at https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/rr/rr6505a1.htm?s_cid=rr6505a1_w
- US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Flu Vaccine Nearly 60 Percent Effective. February 24, 2016. Accessed 11/21/2016 at http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/flu-vaccine-60-percent.html
- Dicker R. Days and Dollars Lost to the Flu Hit a Fever Pitch Last Season. Daily Finance September 21, 2011. Accessed 11/21/2016. http://www.dailyfinance.com/2011/09/21/flu-season-economic-impact-vaccine-walgreens/
- US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Misconceptions about seasonal flu and flu vaccines. Questions and Answers. Last updated: May 30, 2013. Accessed 11/21/2016. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/misconceptions.htm