It’s that time of year again to get your vaccine for the flu season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all people six months and older should be vaccinated against the flu. This is especially important for people who are at risk of getting pneumonia when sick with the flu. This includes those with lung diseases such as asthma, chronic bronchitis or emphysema. (1) If you use oxygen therapy, you are in this risk group and it is important that you be vaccinated. If you are a caretaker of someone in this risk group, you should also be vaccinated to protect your loved ones.
If you are asking yourself why you need to be vaccinated when you received it last year, there is a very good reason. The flu virus changes, or mutates, every year. The manufacturers of the flu vaccine make new vaccines covering the most likely flu strains for that season. The CDC recommends that you obtain your vaccination as soon as it becomes available at your doctor’s office or public health department. This is because the beginning of the flu season varies from year to year. (1) It usually takes about two weeks after being vaccinated to reach maximum protection against the flu virus.
If you don’t have insurance and don’t have the money for the vaccine, call your health department to find out if they will be doing flu clinics in your town. Flu clinics are at designated times when the health department will vaccinate its residents for free or a small fee. If you are over 65 years old, ask for the high dose vaccine made especially for you.
While you are getting your flu vaccine, ask if the pneumococcal vaccine is also suggested for you. The pneumococcal vaccine protects against pneumonia. People who have lung diseases, smokers, or have a compromised immune system should be vaccinated. A person with a compromised immune system means the body cannot fight infection as well as in other people. These include people with HIV, kidney failure, damaged spleen, or no spleen or have received an organ transplant. (2)
Please visit the CDC website (http://www.cdc.gov) or talk to your doctor if you are worried about side effects of these vaccinations. Most likely side effects are minor and short lasting. Most people do not have any side effects from the vaccines. By being vaccinated you can keep yourself from getting these viruses, which protects others around you from becoming ill, as well.
Laurie M. DeChello, MPH, CPH
Laurie has a Master’s degree in Public Health and has been Certified in Public Health.
ASP does not provide medical advice. If you have questions about your illness or treatment, please contact your doctor.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD). What You Should Know for the 2012-2013 Influenza Season. [Online] 2012. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2012-2013.htm.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Vaccines and Preventable Diseases: Pneumococcal Disease In-Short. [Online] 2012. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/pneumo/in-short-both.htm#who.