COLORADO SPRINGS – After a difficult flu season last winter, the CDC is now recommending people get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available.
According to Susan Rehm, M.D., an infectious disease expert at Cleveland Clinic, flu vaccine protection lasts for about six months, so those who get vaccinated in the fall should be protected through the spring.
“It’s important to get the flu vaccine as soon as it’s available in the community,” said Dr. Rehm. “The CDC would really love it if everybody who is going to get vaccine, gets vaccinated by the end of October. However, if it gets to be later into fall and you haven’t been vaccinated yet, please go ahead. We want people to get vaccinated as long as there’s vaccine available.”
Dr. Mark Wesselman, a primary care physician with UCHealth Primary Care Chapel Hills in Colorado Springs adds, “Vaccines are ready and are available (here in southern Colorado) and it’s recommended we start giving them to our patients in October.”
Dr. Rehm said this year’s flu vaccine has four components. Each shot has two influenza “A” strains and two influenza “B” strains.
Two of the four parts, one “A” and one “B” strain have been changed from last year’s vaccine.
Dr. Wesselman explains, “The CDC monitors flu around the world and pick what they think is the most common strains we will see, it’s a mirror of that in the vaccines for a given year.”
The CDC recently reported that the flu was responsible for as many as 80,000 deaths last winter.
Dr. Rehm said unfortunately, there is no way to accurately predict what kind of season it will be this year, but experts are hoping that it will be milder than last year.
She said sometimes myths surrounding the flu vaccine will keep some people from getting one, so it’s important to be able to separate fact from fiction.
“You can’t get the flu from the flu vaccine – that’s really the number one myth that’s still out there,” said Dr. Rehm. “Some people may feel a little achy for a day or two afterwards; some people may even have a low grade fever – but that’s not influenza – that’s the body making antibodies, getting strong, and getting ready to fight off the flu.”
Dr. Wesselman explains, “Not everyone will the get the immunity either, sometimes you get a strain that wasn’t quite what was in the vaccine itself, but it’s still somewhat protective to some degree if you get the flu.”
Dr. Rehm said getting the vaccine is the best thing we can do to protect against flu this season.
Getting the flu vaccine serves a dual purpose – protecting yourself, and also lessening the amount of flu vaccine that is spread around the community, which helps those who are especially vulnerable to suffering complications from the flu.