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Getting a Flu Shot: Decision Time Approaches

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Flu related image Photo: Getty Images

With the advisory from the Centers for Disease Control that everyone should get vaccinated against influenza this year and with memories of 2009’s H1N1 influenza outbreak still fresh, it’s a good time for anyone who is averse to flu shots to reevaluate their reasons.

Is it apathy, lack of time or just plain procrastination? Do you worry that a vaccination will do more harm than good?

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices just issued its recommendation for the 2011-12 flu season and it goes like this: “Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year.” Actually, the CDC has been saying that since February 2010, on the heels of the serious illnesses and deaths caused by H1N1. This coming flu season, “It’s especially important that certain people get vaccinated either because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications,” the CDC said. A list of at-risk groups included pregnant women, children younger than 5, people over 50, healthcare workers and caregivers.

Still, your average Joe and Joanne do not get annual flu shots. A director for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease recently told reporters that about 41 percent of American adults were vaccinated last year.

But seasonal flu can run the gamut from a malaise that keeps you away from work or school for a few days to a life-threatening illness. When a new H1N1 virus hit pandemic levels from spring 2009 to spring 2010, between 43 million and 89 million Americans became ill, according to the Immunization Action Coalition.

The 2011-12 flu vaccine is formulated to protect against the influenza A (H1N1) virus, the influenza A (H3N2) virus and an influenza B virus. The CDC said that anyone who becomes infected with a different virus strain this season will most likely find that their symptoms will be milder if they have received the vaccine.

Even though the formulation is the same as for the 2010-11 season, people should not use, “I got the vaccine last year,” as an excuse to avoid the current vaccine, the CDC said, adding that you can’t expect your body to have the same level of immunity against the viruses as it had after you received last year’s vaccine.

As of August, the 2011-12 vaccine is starting to come into healthcare offices and should be more widely available in September. Manufacturers expect to produce more doses than last year, and it doesn’t hurt to get your shot ahead of peak flu season in the winter, as there is no evidence that your immunity won’t last, said the Immunization Action Coalition.

If you have objections to vaccinations in general you might want to visit any number of websites that hope to dispel myths and misconceptions. Examples are www.vaccineinformation.org and www.immunizationinfo.org

Also, there is a section within the CDC pages on immunization that offers counterarguments to six frequent objections to vaccines. Find it at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/6mishome.htm


“Questions & Answers: 2011-12 Influenza Vaccine and Vaccination Information.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web. 22 Aug. 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/flu_vaccine_updates.htm

“More flu vaccine expected this year.” CNNHealth. Web. 22 Aug. 2011. http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/08/18/more-flu-vaccine-expected-this-year/?iref=allsearch

“Ask the Experts: Influenza.” Immunization Action Coalition. Web. 22 Aug. 2011. http://www.immunize.org/askexperts/experts_inf.asp

Reviewed on August 23, 2011
by Maryann Gromisch
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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