It’s never too soon to prevent illness. Influenza vaccine is already available for this year, a full month ahead of usual arrival. This year’s vaccine has two new virus strains, as scientists try to keep up with the changes the flu bug makes in its constant efforts to evade our immune system. Vaccine given now will protect you from the three included influenza types for at least a year, and likely more.
You may be thinking that influenza is not much of a threat after the mild season we had last year. Influenza rates across the country were down, and the season not only started late, it ended early. No one is sure why the season was so mild, but one good possibility is that immunization against influenza has been widely available and widely used for the last three years. No vaccine shortages and increased interest in getting vaccinated due to the pandemic flu of 2009 means that more people overall were immunized.
Remember, when immunization works, NOTHING HAPPENS. No one gets sick. If you were immunized and did not get sick, you also did not spread illness to others. That means, if you were immunized, you can probably take credit for last year’s mild flu season. Primary care doctors everywhere saw record low numbers of patients last winter.
Don’t be complacent about getting your flu vaccine this year based on our mild season last year – be part of the scheme to keep the flu away again this year!
More Options Than Ever Before
This year there are more options available for influenza vaccine than ever before. Everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated, and everyone has at least two vaccines to choose from!
Individuals of all ages can get the regular flu shot. It comes in two “flavors,”- a multi-dose vial and preservative free. Children less than age 3 get a smaller dose than adults, and children younger than age 9 should get two doses spaced a month apart if they haven’t had two seasonal flu vaccines since July 2010.
Don’t like shots? If you are healthy (no chronic diseases like asthma or diabetes), and age 2 to 49, you can have the nasal mist vaccine, FluMist. If you are 18-64, you can have the “mosquito-bite” intradermal vaccine, which uses a micro-fine, very short needle that just barely goes into the skin.
Folks 65 and older may want to consider Fluzone High-Dose, which is just like the regular flu shot, but more of it (not a bigger shot, just more concentrated). Unfortunately, older individuals have less robust immune systems, and don’t get as good of protection from regular flu shots as we would like, and High-Dose results in a better vaccine response. Consider this vaccine especially if you have other illnesses that flu makes worse, like COPD or emphysema or heart disease.
Finally, one manufacturer is developing a flu vaccine with four strains of influenza virus- two A types and two B types, instead of the usual three. This may be the standard of care in a few years.
Influenza B strains don’t seem to replace each other as much as A strains do, so for several years we have had two different B strains circulating, and the vaccine has only had protection against one. This vaccine may be hard to find this year, because most doctors and pharmacies ordered their vaccine before this option became available. It will also likely be offered to adults only in its first year out.