It’s that time of the year again! The license plates are changing color in Arizona and ‘tis the season to get your flu shot. Peak influenza activity is usually from December to March and in Arizona, usually peaks in January and February. Every year the flu season is a little different and vaccine recommendations change accordingly. Here are the latest updates to keep you healthy and protected this flu season.
1) The flu vaccine is recommended (by all of the major medical organizations) for Everyone over the age of 6 months. Period.
2) The intranasal form of the flu vaccine (brand name Flumist®) is no longer recommended, because of the very low level of protection it has provided in recent flu seasons. So now, the injectable version is the only vaccine option available, but it still provides the best protection.
3) There are now close to a dozen different formulations of injectable flu vaccine available on the market. Current recommendations do not favor any one over the other. It is much more important that you get a flu vaccine, rather than which one you get.
4) Egg allergies are no longer considered an absolute reason not to get a flu shot. Check with your doctor or provider first if you have a history of a reaction to eggs. You may need only 15 minutes of observation after getting a regular flu vaccine or you could be a candidate for one of 2 new recombinant vaccines (Flublok® and Flucelvax®) which are produced using cell culture technology instead of being incubated in eggs.
5) There are currently two vaccines designed specifically for anyone over the age of 65. Fluzone High-Dose® and Fluad® are specially formulated to produce a higher immune response. Vaccination is especially important for people 65 years and older because they are at high risk for complications from influenza.
News on the horizon:
An international team of scientists have developed a new generation of universal flu vaccines to protect against future global pandemics. The universal vaccine is expected to give protection for up to 88% of known flu strains worldwide in a single shot. A USA specific vaccine could provide 95% coverage of known US influenza strains. Researchers have essentially devised a way to "train" the immune system to recognize a portion of the virus that does not change from year-to-year, thus bypassing the flu virus’s ability to mutate. This game changing vaccine could potentially be given just once and could protect against all future strains of the flu, including mutated strains. According to Dr. Matthew Miller, Ph.D. a universal flu vaccine could become available within the next 5 years. He and his research team at McMaster University published their groundbreaking work in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
So remember, even if you’re invincible and “never get the flu”, getting vaccinated reduces your risk of infecting other more vulnerable people in your community. Don’t be “that guy” that infects your new infant, elderly neighbor or pregnant family member with a potentially deadly disease.
On that cheery note, get out and enjoy the Fall weather that we so cherish in Arizona.