Ah the beauty of the changing seasons of Michigan. After a blistering summer I am ready for the refreshing crispness of the autumn air. Apple cidar doughnuts, football and flu shots. The perfect beginning to the season. The predictability of the start of football season, however, is in stark contrast to the flu season. Flu season can begin as early as October and has been known to peak as late as April. It is important to get the flu shot early due to this unpredictablity. It can take your body 2 weeks to produce the necessary antibodies after vaccination to ensure protection.
We need to get the updated vaccine each year because the viruses change over time and our circulating antibodies are reduced over time. Many people want to wait until November to get the vaccine with the notion that their immunity will not last for the whole season but this is not a problem.
For patients 65 or older there is high dose version of the flu shot which in studies does elicit a stronger immunue response in the form of higher antibodies. The question is does this actually result in more protection vs the standard dose? The answer isn't known yet. The study that will most likely answer this will not be completed until 2014-2015. As of now the CDC is not recommending one over the other. Medicare part B pays for the high dose version so until we know more it may be a good idea to get it.
Many insurances already cover this important preventative measure and next year they are required to offer with no copay. So there should not be too many reasons not to get the vaccine. Unless of course if you are allergic to a component of the vaccine as in an anaphalactic reaction to eggs. Of course we can protect those that cannot get the vaccine by getting it ourselves and not becoming a carrier.
Most common fallacy about the flu shot? "I got the flu from the flu shot". Not a possibility as this vaccination contains a killed virus. There is a possibility of getting the flu soon after the vaccination but that is because of the delay of antibody production. This is merely a coincidence. A very important observation in science is this: correlation does not equal causation. This is not to say some people may not feel lethargic and muscle aches after the vaccincation. But not an actual infection.
So protect yourself, family and community and get your flu shot today!
Steven R. Jensen PharmD. owns and operates Jensen's Community Pharmacy in the Oaks Plaza.
For inquires about the flu shot please call 429-9053.