It’s time for the Seasonal Flu Vaccine again. Vaccines should be made available at a pharmacy near you, so those at risk are encouraged to get their shots as soon as possible.
The “flu shot” is an activated vaccine (containing a killed virus) that is given intramuscularly, usually in the deltoid muscle of the arm. The flu shot is approved for use in adults and children over 6 months, including healthy people and those with chronic medical conditions.
Seasonal flu vaccines protect against the three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming winter season. About two weeks after vaccination, antibodies that provide protection against the influenza viruses in the vaccine develop in the body.
It is recommended that individuals get their seasonal flu vaccine as soon as the vaccines become available in their community. Vaccination before December is best since this ensures that protective antibodies are in place before flu activity is typically at its highest. However, people are still encouraged to get vaccinated throughout the flu season, which can begin as early as October and last till May.
While everyone should get a flu vaccine each flu season, it is especially important that the following groups receive their shots either because they are at higher risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for people at high risk of developing flu-related complications:
- Pregnant women
- Children younger than 5, though especially those under 2 years
- People aged 50 years and older
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
- People living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- People who live with or care for those at high risk of complications from flu, such as health care workers.
On the other hand, there are some people who should not be vaccinated without first consulting a physician, these include:
- People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs
- People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination
- Children younger than 6 months of age
- People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (they should wait till they recover)
- People with a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (a severe paralytic illness, also called GBS) that occurred after receiving an influenza vaccine and who are not at risk for severe illness from influenza should generally not receive the vaccine.
The ability of a flu vaccine to protect a person depends on the age and health status of the person receiving the vaccine, and the similarity between the viruses or virus in the vaccine and those in circulation.
The seasonal flu vaccine currently made available in major pharmacies is Vaxigrip, produced by Sanofi Aventis.