Flu and Pneumonia Shots 2012 – Questions & Answers
It’s getting to be that time of year. Time to think about getting your flu shot and (for some) updating your pneumonia vaccination. I always get a lot of questions from patients this time of year. Do I need a flu shot? (The answer is “yes”.) When should I get it? Do I need a pneumonia shot? How often?
Do I need a flu shot?
Yes – flu shots are recommended for children, teens and adults of all ages.
When should I get the flu shot?
The best time is late fall at the beginning for the flu season – late October or early November. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), however, is currently recommending “one dose every year in the fall or winter beginning vaccinations as soon as the vaccine is available and continuing throughout the influenza season or until the supply is depleted”. I still say late October or early November is best. Flu season really get underway after we all travel around the holidays giving away our germs with our gifts and generally getting run down. If you miss getting it before the holiday, by all means go ahead and get it whenever. I always get mine in early November so it will last longer into the spring but that’s just my preference.
I never get that sick, why should I get a flu shot?
The purpose of vaccines is to confine the growth and spread of diseases in a community or population. Those who are not immunized are the “weak links” in this defense. While you might contract the flu virus and have nothing but a mild cold, you could pass the virus on to a frail or ill family member, friend or neighbor who might become very ill or even die from complications from the flu. That’s why everyone who can be, should be immunized.
Can I get the flu from a flu shot?
No, the flu shot that is given to adults is an “inactivated” form of flu virus and is incapable of causing the flu. There can be some minor soreness at the injection site for a few days and some people experience a couple of days of muscle aches and low grade fever (that’s your immune system reacting to the vaccine and mounting an immune response). The flu shot will not protect you against other infections such as bacterial infections or viruses that cause the common cold.
The nasal form of the vaccine is a “live attenuated influenza vaccine/LAIV” and is possible of transmitting the flu virus but that form of vaccine is only approved for healthy, non-pregnant people between the ages of 2 – 49 years old.
Who should NOT get a flu shot?
Anyone who has had a previous serious allergic reaction to a flu shot or is allergic to eggs should not get the flu vaccine. Anyone who is currently ill and/or has fever should postpone the flu vaccine until they are well. Anyone with a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), particularly if it occurred within 6 weeks of a prior flu shot, should not be vaccinated.
Do I need a pneumonia vaccine?
According to the CDC, the following adults should get a pneumonia shot:
- All people age 65 years and older.
- Anyone younger than age 65 who have chronic illness or other risk factors, including chronic cardiac or pulmonary disease (including asthma), chronic liver disease, alcoholism, diabetes, CSF leaks, cigarette smokers, and people aged 50 through 64 years old living in special environments or social settings like nursing or group homes (including American Indian/Alaska Natives).
- Anyone who has any of the following conditions: history of surgical removal of the spleen, sickle cell disease, has a cochlear implant, immune compromising conditions including HIV, leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, multiple myeloma, generalized malignancy, chronic renal failure, nephrotic syndrome, or are receiving immunosuppressive chemotherapy (including steroids), or have ever had an organ or bone marrow transplant.
How often do I need a pneumonia shot?
- If you’ve never been vaccinated or if your previous vaccination history is unknown get a pneumonia vaccine at age 65.
- If you are older than 65 and your last pneumonia vaccine was given prior to age 65 and it’s been 5 years since your last dose a second vaccination is recommended.
- If you are between 19 and 64 years old and in one of the high-risk categories listed above then get a pneumonia vaccine.
Who should NOT get a pneumonia shot?
Anyone who has had a previous serious allergic reaction to a pneumonia shot or who is currently ill and/or has fever should postpone the vaccine until they are well.
Pneumonia shots and flu shots can be administered at the same time and are covered by Medicare. You can get them at your doctor’s office, health departments or local pharmacies.
Follow this link to the CDC’s Immunization site for more information.
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