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September 19, 2019

The low-down on this year’s flu shot

By Dr. Timothy Hendrix

Flu season is just around the corner, which means the team at AdventHealth Centra Care has already been preparing for months to protect your family. Influenza is the most frequent cause of death from a vaccine-preventable disease in the United States, with an average of 24,000 deaths a year. In addition to fatalities, seasonal influenza is also responsible for more than 200,000 hospitalizations each year. Rates of infection from seasonal influenza are highest among children, but the risks for complications, hospitalizations and deaths are higher among adults ages 65 years and older, children younger than 5 years, and people of any age who have medical conditions that place them at increased risk for complications from influenza.

There are many different flu viruses and they tend to change each year. The composition of the flu vaccines is reviewed annually by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and updated as needed to match circulating flu viruses.

This year’s vaccine selection process was unique in that the World Health Organization actually delayed their decision on which strains to use in the vaccine composition as they watched the viruses changing around the world. The additional time allowed experts more opportunity to monitor circulating influenza viruses and characterization of potential strains to include in the vaccine. Because of that delay, manufacturers of the vaccine are asking providers to prepare for a potential 2-4 week delay in vaccine availability this year.

Every AdventHealth Centra Care location, including our Free Flu Shot Festival community events, will offer the Quadrivalent (four-compound) shot again this year. This season, the Quadrivalent vaccine will protect against these four viruses:

  • A/Brisbane (H1N1) pdm09-like virus
  • A/Kansas (H3N2)-like virus
  • B/Colorado/ (Victoria lineage) virus
  • B/Phuket (Yamagata lineage) virus.

With only a few exceptions, everyone should get a flu shot annually. Unfortunately, there are many negative myths surrounding the flu vaccination.  The one that Centra Care providers hear the most is, “You can get the flu from a flu shot.” This is FALSE.

There are several reasons why this misconception persists:

  • Less than 1% of people who are vaccinated develop symptoms such as mild fever and muscle aches after vaccination. These side effects are not the same as having influenza, but people confuse the symptoms.
  • Immunity after a flu shot doesn’t fully develop until 1–2 weeks after vaccination. Some people who get vaccinated later in the season may be infected with the influenza virus shortly afterward. These late vaccines can develop influenza because they were exposed to someone with the virus before they became immune. It is not the result of the vaccination.
  • Many people consider “the flu” to be any illness with fever and cold symptoms or gastrointestinal symptoms. If they get any viral illness, they may blame it on flu vaccine or think they got “the flu” from the shot. Influenza vaccine only protects against certain influenza viruses, not all viruses.

Each year, Centra Care provides thousands of free flu vaccinations in events designed to protect our entire community from the flu.  The events are always kid-fun and friendly in an effort to make the flu shot experience a positive one. For more information on influenza or this year’s Free Flu Shot Festivals, visit CentraCare.org

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