Get flu shot early, experts say, as bug begins to make rounds

Published Oct 23, 2017 at 4:00pm

Flu season has begun — and health experts are advising people not to wait to get a flu shot. Flu season typically runs from October to May each year. While flu symptoms can be mild — they can also be serious, to the point of life-threatening, particularly for the elderly and individuals with compromised immune systems.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say virus can cause around 200,000 hospitalizations and cause between 36,000 deaths each year in the U.S. It can lead to pneumonia and cause seizures in children.

Those interested in receiving flu shots may consult their personal doctor or visit a local pharmacy, including Rite-Aid or Walgreens.

The Oneida County Health Department has both the adult flu vaccine as well as a limited supply of the children’s flu vaccine. The cost is $25.00 per shot. The health department also has the high dose flu vaccine, which costs $50 per dose. The department does take a variety of health insurance coverages. People can visit the county’s website for various vaccine clinics or call the department at 315-798-5747 to schedule an appointment or for additional information.

The flu vaccine is 50 percent effective for older adults and 70 percent effective for younger, healthy people, according to the CDC. Those at risk include adults aged 65 and older, children under two, pregnant mothers, and the chronically ill.

Vaccine risks?

The benefits of the flu vaccine, experts say, outweigh any discomfort.

“The flu vaccine is not the complete virus; it’s broken up pieces of the virus,” Dr. William Schaffner, Professor of Medicine and Infectious Disease Researcher at Vanderbilt University, said.

Common side effects of the flu vaccine include a headache, sore arm, redness and a bump near the injection site. “About 1.5 to 2 percent of people will actually get a degree of fever for a day. But that’s just a reaction to the vaccine,that’s not the flu,” Schaffner said. “The influenza vaccine cannot reconstitute itself and give you the flu. If you get sick after being vaccinated, it means you were already sick. These symptoms are your body reacting to the shot, and not the flu itself.”

The flu vaccine does not cause any neurological disorders. “There is no association between the flu vaccine and autism,” Schaffner said. “The one neurological disorder, which anyone has a one-in-a-milion chance of getting, is Guillain-Barre syndrome, from which most people completely recover.”

More advice

Experts recommend people receive the vaccine by the end of November.

“There’s a little more importance to talking about how late you can get the vaccine, because much of the interest on the part of providers and patients stops around Thanksgiving,” Schaffner said. “But the flu usually, but not always, peaks in the United States around February.”

Experts also say it’s important to receive yearly vaccinations.

Schaffner said there are two reasons for this. “We have to reconstitute the vaccine often in anticipation for what the dominant flu strains will be each year. And, flu protection has a way of waning for the elderly and the infirm. The vaccination does not last for more than one season.”