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Decision to Get Flu Vaccine More Important than Its Timing

Numbers don’t lie: Vaccine makes a difference regardless of when it is administered

  McIntyre HeadshotDAYTON, Ohio (September 29, 2014) – What does a NFL football stadium; a cruise ship and the state of Arizona all have in common? Well, according to the Disease Control and Prevention Off Site Icon (CDC), they all provide a powerful picture of how the flu vaccine really benefits our society.

Every year, the CDC urges individuals to get their seasonal flu shot with the understanding that doubts and misunderstandings of its effectiveness still exist in the United States. To help drive the flu vaccine’s importance home, the CDC asks those who question the shot to consider the following facts derived from one of the most recent flu seasons.

About 6.6 million flu-associated illnesses were avoided by the flu shot. That’s about the same amount of people living in Arizona. Another 3.2 million flu-associated medical visits were prevented. That’s the same number of people aboard more than 1,000 mega-cruise ships. And nearly 80,000 hospitalizations – or the number of fans that fill a full NFL football stadium – were avoided thanks for the flu vaccination.

Sally McIntyre, MD, an internist with Belmont Physicians, said the flu vaccine should become an annual event for everyone no different than back-to-school shopping or holiday shopping. It should be a given that it will happen and people should have the confidence that it matters.

“I really didn’t see a lot of flu this past year and I believe it is because the flu vaccination is so effective,” Dr. McIntyre said. “But I know that misunderstandings still exist as to its effectiveness. I still have the occasional patient, for instance, who will tell me they don’t want the vaccination because it made them sick last time they got it. But we know that can’t happen since the vaccination is a dead virus. Still, it serves as a reminder of how important it is to re-educate people.”

Another common question individuals can have is whether there is an optimal time in which to get the vaccination. The flu can surface anytime of the year, according to the CDC, however, it most commonly strikes as early as October and as late as May. In Ohio, flu seasons historically have peaked in January and February, Dr. McIntyre, a Premier HealthNet physician, said.

Flu vaccinations can be available to the public in September and October. Patients can sometimes wonder if getting the flu vaccination as soon as it comes out is a benefit or whether its effectiveness can wear off if a flu season doesn’t hit until late winter or early spring.

“There is no magical formula in terms of a flu shot’s timing and the longevity of its effectiveness,” Dr. McIntyre said. “The most important thing is that people get it as soon as it is available because it takes the body up to two weeks after receiving the shot to develop antibodies against the flu. There is no evidence that the flu vaccination wears off before a typical flu season ends.”

The flu vaccination is recommended for everyone, especially those who are particularly vulnerable, including infants, those over 65 and individuals with pre-existing health conditions such as asthma or diabetes. The flu vaccination should be administered annually since the flu strains from which it protects changes from year to year.

Several different flu vaccinations exist for the 2014-2015 season. The trivalent vaccine will protect against two influenza A viruses and one influenza B virus. The quadrivalent vaccine protects against two influenza A and two influenza B viruses. The quadrivalent vaccine is a nasal spray that can be given to healthy individuals between the ages of two and 49 years old.

“The CDC does not recommend one flu vaccine over another,” Dr. McIntyre said. “That’s why it is important for individuals to talk to their family physician about their options. A good physician-patient relationship will ensure that the right vaccine is administered for a person’s particular health.”

For more information on the flu vaccine or to find a primary care physician, visit: www.premierhealthnet.com/doctor.

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