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Alison Beaver

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Influenza Vaccine Advocacy Sheet

By EmpowHER

Even though flu season typically peaks from November through the end of April, it’s not too early to think about getting your (or your children’s) annual flu shot. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended that manufacturers make a combination flu vaccine for the 2010-2011 flu season. That means that the flu shot will more than likely consist of both the seasonal flu and H1N1 in one shot, so there’s no need to search out a separate shot for swine flu protection.

Flu symptoms may include fever (100.4 or greater), sore throat, tiredness, dry cough, malaise, body aches and chills.

Some people are leery of vaccination recommendations, thinking that vaccines are risky, the mandates are an assault on individual choice, or that their children don’t need to get vaccinated because everyone else is. As stated in a 2007 commentary by Dr. Paul Offit, “…at some point we are going to be forced to decide whether it is our inalienable right to catch and transmit potentially fatal infections.”

It is best to inform yourself from reputable resources and make your own decisions. Here are some questions you may want to ask your doctor regarding the flu vaccine, followed by what your doctor may say in response:

We just got the flu vaccine last season. Why do we need it again?
The flu vaccine is formulated each year to help protect against current strains of the flu that are most likely to be around to infect your family. There are many different strains of the flu each year, whereas the things that cause other infections such as polio, mumps, chickenpox, etc., don’t change year to year. Those vaccinations are standardized and protect for a number of years. It’s possible that eventually we may have a flu vaccine that will protect an individual for a number of years, but it is not currently available

Are vaccines safe?
All vaccinations have to be approved by the FDA before being administered by your doctor. The FDA records any reported Vaccine Adverse Events in their VAERS database. A condition like diphtheria would’ve stricken fear into someone a long time ago, whereas now many people may not even know what it is. And last year’s H1N1 influenza outbreak was scary for some in high-risk groups. Having vaccines helps people stay well, and fight off possible infections. The more people who decide not to get vaccinated for a perceived “dead” condition, thinking that it’s unnecessary because eveyone’s vaccinated, so there’s no risk of infection from it, the more likely there could be an outbreak. This is called herd or community immunity.

How do vaccines work?
When receiving a vaccination, a tiny bit of the weakened infection is introduced into your body. Your body’s immune system then goes to work, fighting and dispelling the infection. If your body comes into contact with that infection again, your body remembers it and immediately attacks it (acquired immunity).

Who needs to be vaccinated against influenza?
Your doctor can tell if you should or should not receive the vaccine, but generally speaking, children, women who are pregnant, and people with chronic medical or respiratory conditions especially need to avoid getting the worst flu infections, so they should be vaccinated. Those who work in the health care system, or people who work with individuals in the high-risk group should also be vaccinated. However it’s always a good idea to get vaccinated to avoid having to take days off from your busy life because of illness.

Last year there was a shortage of flu vaccine. Will that happen again?
In 2010, manufacturers stepped up production for flu vaccine, so there should be ample supply for everyone wanting a flu shot, in addition to the high-risk groups.

What is the risk of not getting vaccinated?
Vaccines are designed to protect the receiver from what the federal government has determined to be the most infectious influenza strains. Not getting vaccinated puts your child at risk from contracting those infections.


This information is not meant to be a replacement for talking with your doctor. Talk with your doctors to get the full picture for your particular case.

Resources:
http://flu.gov/news/blogs/blog20100222.html “Protection from 2009 H1N1 To Be Included in 2010-2011 Seasonal Flu Vaccine
http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/1011_vac_selection.htm Vaccine Selection for the 2010-2011 Influenza Season
http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/flu-symptoms/FU00013 Mayo Clinic Flu Symptoms Tool

Do you have a question about Vaccinations? Check out EmpowHER’s Influenza pages. Sign-up, post a question, share your story, connect with other women in our community and feel EmpowHERed!

Christine Jeffries is a writer/editor for work and at heart, and lives in a home of testosterone with her husband and two sons. Christine is interested in women’s health and promoting strong women.

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