180 million doses of the flu vaccine may sound like a lot, but supplies may run low towards the end of the flu season – when it may be too late to be protected. Remember it takes about two to three weeks to build up an antibody to protect you from exposure to the influenza virus and, while most cases occur during the months of January and February, early reports of the flu start popping up in October. Waiting until the start or peak of flu season increases your risk of exposure and less time to prepare your immune system. The flu vaccine is available at nearly all Utica Park Clinic primary care locations now. Call your clinic to schedule a time to get your flu shot and to check availability throughout the season.
This year’s flu vaccine has been manufactured to protect against three of four strains of the flu, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict will be the most frequently occurring strains this year. In addition to getting a flu shot, health care providers agree you must take extra precautions to help reduce the spread of the flu by washing your hands frequently and avoiding people who are sick. If you are sick, it is best to stay home from work.
The elderly, pregnant women and babies are the most susceptible to develop serious complications from the flu. Check with your elderly loved ones and neighbors to make sure they have arrangements to get a flu shot this season. Also, all pregnant women regardless of where they are in their pregnancy are advised to get a flu shot, which will protect their baby even after birth. Pregnancy, which is already taxing on the heart, lungs and immune system, increases the risk of hospitalization with the flu and may even be fatal for mom and baby.
Anyone with chronic medical conditions should also get a flu shot before flu season hits. Those include:
Cancer or cancer treatment
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Kidney or liver disease
The flu vaccine is administered in one of two ways – a shot and nasal spray. The shot delivers an inactivated vaccine from a killed virus. The nasal spray delivers a low-dose live flu virus, which has been weakened. The nasal spray is approved for anyone two to 49 years of age, which are not pregnant. The flu shot, however, is approved for anyone six months and older.
"Flu season is a great time to review additional vaccination needs," adds Utica Park Clinic internist Dr. Jeffrey Galles. "Our clinics frequently offers additional vaccines when a patient is receiving their influenza vaccine. There are two 'pneumonia vaccines' that we now offer, Pneumovax (PCV 23) and Prevnar (PCV 13). These vaccines help protect against lung infections caused by a bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae. Patients 65 and older should recieve one of each, seperated by one year. We can also update the tetanus vaccine or the Tetanus, pertussus combination (Adacel). When patients come in for their flu vaccine, they should ask their provider if there are any other vaccines they should receive."