Get Your Flu Shots

Published on December 28, 2010 by in Public Health

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I had the misfortune of having to travel the Monday after Christmas, you know, when that whole blizzard thing was happening. I was flying out of San Francisco Airport but the ripple effect reached all the way across the country, delaying my flight for 4 hours. Needless to say the terminal was packed, people sleeping on the floor waiting for the airports in NY to re-open, the whole nine yards. Sitting there in the mass of humanity (and the germs that accompany it), I couldn’t help but think ‘I really wish I had gotten a flu shot’. Which leads me to my point, get your flu shot!

Boston Globe, December 28, 2010

Trying to figure out what to do now that your holiday shopping is over? How about getting a flu shot? There’s still time, says Dr. Al DeMaria, medical director of infectious diseases at the Massachusetts Department of Health. “We’re starting to see a little bit of activity, but flu will probably peak in this area at the end of January or early February. People shouldn’t think it’s too late.”

If you get vaccinated this week, you should have good immunity before flu really gets underway. DeMaria says it takes about two weeks after you get vaccinated for your immune system to be fully revved up — and perhaps even less time if you’ve been vaccinated in the past.

Pharmacies and clinics are still offering flu shots on a walk-in basis for $20 to $30 a shot if your insurance doesn’t cover it.

Unlike those vaccine lines that stretched around the block during last year’s swine flu epidemic, DeMaria tells me there’s “less urgency” this year about getting the flu vaccine. The health department hasn’t collected numbers yet on the leftover stockpiles of vaccine, but “some of the community clinics didn’t see as many people as they expected to see,” DeMaria says.

That’s a shame given that H1N1 — the strain responsible for swine flu — is still circulating this year, already causing some deaths in Europe. It was included along with two other circulating strains in this year’s vaccine. DeMaria says they’ve seen all three strains already in Massachusetts. “They got the vaccine right this year,” he adds.

Sometimes the vaccine doesn’t contain the correct circulating strains since it’s difficult to predict in the early spring — when manufacturers begin producing the yearly vaccine — which viruses will be dominant in North America come winter. Hence the long wait for last year’s H1N1 vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone over the age of six months get a flu shot but puts particular emphasis on high-risk individuals like “young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 years and older.”

Luckily I am still symptom free, we’ll see tomorrow if I really dodged that bullet though.

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