Photo: Getty Images
Flu shots are now available at many drug stores and clinics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone age six months and over get vaccinated every year, unless they have specific immune system conditions. Most vaccines come in the form of injections, but the nasal spray live attenuated influenza vaccine is also approved for healthy individuals age 2 to 49 years.
A high-dose intramuscular injection is available for people age 65 and older. In addition, the 2011-2012 flu season brings a new option for vaccination. The Fluzone(R) intradermal vaccine, for people age 18 to 64, is administered with an ultra-fine needle only 1.5 mm long, so those of us who hate needles may find it less unpleasant than standard flu shots. The standard intramuscular flu shots are still available.
The three strains of influenza included in the 2011-2012 vaccine are the same as those included in the 2010-2011 vaccine. These include one type A (H1N1), one type A (H3N2), and one type B virus.
One of the frequently asked questions on the CDC web site is, “If the influenza vaccine composition is the same for the upcoming season as it was last season, do I need to get vaccinated again?” The answer is yes. Influenza immunity declines with time, and may be too low to prevent illness after a year.
It takes about two weeks after vaccination for your immune system to produce enough antibodies to protect you against the flu. So the CDC recommends getting vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available in the fall of each year. But if you find yourself eating Thanksgiving dinner before you get around to getting your shot, you can still benefit from the vaccine.
The influenza vaccine is not approved for children under six months of age. For everyone older than six months, the CDC recommends that you consult a physician before getting the influenza vaccine if you meet any of the following conditions:
1. You have a severe allergy to chicken eggs
2. You have a severe reaction to a past influenza vaccine
3. You developed Guillian-Barre disease within six weeks of receiving a previous influenza vaccine