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Time to Get Your Flu Shot, Advises Lourdes Family Medicine Physician

“Says some protection is better than none”

Nurse Allyson Pack gives an employee her annual flu shot at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center.

Although the 2017-18 flu vaccine was only 36 percent effective at protecting against the flu, and even less against the dominant strain of the virus, it doesn’t mean you should skip the shot this year, according to a Lourdes family medicine physician.

“This year’s vaccine has been updated to what we hope better matches the circulating viruses,” said Arnold Fontanilla, DO, family medicine physician with Lourdes Medical Associates. “It’s impossible to predict with certainty if a flu vaccine will be a good match for the circulating viruses, as decisions are made months ahead of time to allow for manufacturing time. But I tell my patients to get vaccinated because some protection is better than none.”

According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the 2018-19 vaccine will protect against different strains of the H3N2 and influenza B viruses than last year’s.

In addition, the nasal spray once again will be an option for healthy, nonpregnant individuals ages 2 to 49. There will also be a high-dose vaccine for older adults, as well as an egg-free version that’s grown in animal cells rather than chicken eggs.

The CDC recommends people receive a flu vaccine before the end of October.

“It takes about two weeks after vaccination for a person to build up immunity against the flu, so it’s best to get the shot in the fall, before influenza activity picks up,” said Dr. Fontanilla.

“Contact your doctor’s office or pharmacy to see if they have the vaccine in stock.”

Everyone 6 months of age and older should be vaccinated against the flu.

But even when a flu vaccine isn’t as effective as it could be, making sure as many people as possible get vaccinated still saves lives.

In a recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers used a mathematical model to predict the impact of vaccinating large numbers of people even when a flu vaccine isn’t very effective.

They found that if 43 percent of Americans got vaccinated with a low-efficacy vaccine, it would still prevent about:

  • 21 million people from getting sick
  • 130,000 hospitalizations
  • 62,000 deaths“By getting the shot, you’ll protect yourself, your family and older adults who are at higher risk for serious flu-related complications,” said Dr. Fontanilla.To learn what else you can do to fight the flu, visit www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/prevention.htm.

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