It’s that time of year – flu season! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend getting a flu shot annually. Please see the questions and answers below regarding flu vaccines and other vaccines.
Q: Why do we need a flu shot every year when we only have to get a tetanus shot every ten years or a pneumonia shot only once or every five years as prescribed by our doctor?
A: Every year the flu virus changes and a new vaccine has to be produced in order to protect us from the most virulent flu of the year. The flu virus is constantly changing year to year; therefore a new vaccine has to be made.
Q: When should I get the flu shot?
A: Ideally, unless otherwise directed by your physician, everyone should get the flu shot between September and the middle of November. Usually the flu season starts in mid-November, but cases of flu do pop up earlier. So, the sooner you get the vaccine, the more protected you are. Keep in mind that it takes two weeks for the vaccine to take full effect. But if you have not been immunized before the middle of November and are feeling well, it is not too late to get the vaccine.
Q: Is the flu vaccine safe?
A: Vaccines do a great job of preventing the flu and deaths associated with the flu. The flu vaccine should not be given to children under 6 months, people who are allergic to eggs, and people with Guillain-Barre Syndrome. If you are allergic to gelatin and/or any antibiotics, ask your doctor first as to whether you should get the flu vaccine. Usually when someone has a reaction to the flu vaccine it happens very soon after it is given.
Q: What about other vaccines?
A: Pneumonia: You should get a pneumonia shot if you are 65 or older or, if you are 64 and under and have a disease that compromises your immune system such as leukemia, multiple myeloma, lymphoma, kidney failure, and if you are taking medications that lower your body’s ability to fight infections such as steroids. Also, the pneumonia vaccine is recommended if you smoke, have asthma, or live in a nursing home, retirement community, or assisted living facility. Always check with your doctor. There are two pneumonia shots now (Pneumovax 23 and Prevnar 13) and there is a waiting period in between getting both shots. Prevnar 13 the newest vaccine and covers a broader spectrum of pneumonia-related bacteria. They should not be given at the same time. Ask your doctor about the time frame for getting both pneumonia vaccines
Shingles: You should get this one-time vaccine at age 50 or older. If you had the chicken pox, you can get the shingles, and it can be a very painful and long road to recovery.
Tetanus, Diptheria, Pertussis (Tdap, TD): Everyone should get a one time Tdap vaccination which is followed by a Td booster every 10 years. If you are over 65, and have not had the vaccine and are around babies younger than twelve months, you should get the vaccine. If you originally had the Tdap, but haven’t had a tetanus shot in the last ten years, you should get the Td booster.
Pregnant women between 27 and 36 weeks should get vaccinated with each pregnancy during this time.
There are many other vaccines available, such as hepatitis, measles, mumps and rubella. Talk to your doctor about all the vaccines available and whether they are right for you.
For more information see: