Although summer-like weather lingered into October in Northeastern Pennsylvania this year, the fall season is upon us and it’s time to turn our attention to things to come. This means it’s time to prepare ourselves for flu season and it is not too early to get vaccinated.
Joseph Scott Miskovsky, owner of Red Cross Pharmacy in Forest City, reassures his customers the vaccine is safe, does not cause illnesses and is essential to battling influenza which can also lead to other serious illnesses. “Even healthy people need a flu vaccine, and the virus is deadened therefore, you absolutely cannot get the flu from the injection, and reactions are extremely rare,” he said.
The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older. “Pregnant women, young children, older people, and people with certain chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and heart disease are at increased risk of serious flu-related complications, so getting a yearly flu vaccine is especially important for them,” Miskovsky said.
VACCINES DON’T CAUSE FLU
While those who have received the vaccine have reported getting the flu from it, that is simply not true. While some may get mild flu-like symptoms, more serious symptoms are more than likely from a strain of the flu the person already had contracted prior to the vaccination. These may include soreness, redness or swelling, headache, fever, muscle aches and nausea. Miskovsky said these side effects are not the flu and usually only last one to two days while the flu usually lasts much longer.
While there are many flu viruses and they are constantly changing, they are reviewed annually and the vaccines are updated to match major circulating flu viruses. According to Miskovsky, flu vaccines protect against the three or four viruses, depending on the type of flu vaccine, that research suggests will be most common in a given year. Each year, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention works closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other partners to ensure the highest safety standards for flu vaccines.
When should a person get the vaccine? Because the flu is already being detected in some areas in the country, Miskovsky urges people get vaccinated immediately. Once vaccinated, a person’s body takes two weeks to develop the antibodies to protect against the flu. The CDC recommends annually that a person receive a flu vaccination by the end of October. However, even later is better than never, and the vaccine will be offered throughout the entire flu season in this area. Flu season may last until May.
Children 6 months through 8 years of age will require two doses of flu vaccine for adequate protection from flu. Children in this age group, who are getting vaccinated for the first time will need two doses of flu vaccine, spaced at least 28 days apart. Your child’s doctor or other health care professional can tell you if your child needs two doses. Visit “Children, the Flu, and the Flu Vaccine” at cdc.gov/flu/protect/children.htm for more information.
Children younger than 6 months are at higher risk of serious flu complications, but are too young to get a flu vaccine. Because of this, safeguarding them from flu is especially important. If you live with or care for an infant younger than 6 months of age, you should get a flu vaccination to help protect him or her from flu, advises the CDC. See “Advice for Caregivers of Young Children” at cdc.gov/flu/protect/infantcare.htm for more information.
OBTAINING A VACCINATION
While your doctor’s office provides the vaccine, getting vaccinated is more convenient than ever and local pharmacists can now provide the service as well. One in four adults who got the flu vaccine last year received it at a pharmacy. “We have a standing order so people can just walk in whenever it is convenient,” Miskovsky said.
In addition to your doctor and pharmacy, other places -- such as a health department, urgent care clinic, schools, college health centers and employers, -- make the vaccine available.
“Flu shots are covered by most insurances and do not incur a cost,” the pharmacist said.
In addition to getting a seasonal flu vaccine, you can take everyday preventive actions, according to the CDC. These include staying away from infected people and washing hands to reduce the spread of germs. If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading the flu. In addition, there are prescription medications called antiviral drugs that can be used to treat the influenza illness.