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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

The Flu Shot: 101

Published October 15, 2012 8:23 AM by Rebecca Hepp

If you haven’t been vaccinated for the flu yet, it should be on your weekend to-do list. October is the unofficial start of flu season, and you don’t want to come down with the nasty virus — or have your kids miss school because of it. Only 46% of Americans get the flu shot every year, according to CDC statistics, but there are so many reasons why everyone should partake of the vaccine. Older adults and healthcare workers are the two groups most encouraged to get the vaccine, according to a recent news article. Older adults need more protection, according to the article, and they can opt to get a shot with four times the dose of vaccine antigen, which causes the immune system to produce antibodies. Healthcare workers, given their perpetual interaction with patients, their families and coworkers, are feeling even more pressure this year to get the flu shot. The CDC recorded that only about 64% of health workers nationally were vaccinated in 2010-2011. This year, the Joint Commission requires accredited organizations to establish an employee vaccination program with the goal of meeting 90% coverage by 2020, the article noted.

Here are some great reasons to get the flu shot this year:

  • You don’t have to get a shot: Advances in technology have now given those of us who get squeamish around big needles different options for receiving the flu vaccination. Along with the traditional intramuscular needle injection, there is also a nasal vaccine and an intradermal shot that uses a much smaller needle. Each has its own age recommendations, but even those that fall outside of the nasal spray recommendations of 2-49, or those with asthma, diabetes and heart disease, can still get the much smaller intradermal shot.
  • Three times the protection: This year’s shot is more than the H1N1 virus strain — it also contains two new strains that were identified as likely to affect the northern hemisphere. There is a quadrivalent vaccine (containing four different strains) available for the nasal vaccine, but it most likely will not be widely available until next year, the article reported.
  • Protection is not immediate: Getting the vaccine today probably will not protect you during that classroom visit tomorrow. According to the article, it usually takes about two weeks after vaccination for the body to develop the antibodies. And just because it’s the middle of October and flu season is underway doesn’t mean you missed out. The season often peaks around February, the article said, so you still have to get the protection you need.
  • It’s hard to predict the severity of the season: Even though the past few flu seasons have been mild, according to the article, you can’t depend on this year being the same. Influenza is notoriously unpredictable, and even CDC statistics vary enormously, estimating anywhere between 3,000 and 49,000 deaths each year from the flu. This year’s trivalent, and even quadrivalent, vaccine is a proactive step towards keeping that number on the low side this year.

So are you already covered, or are you still not sure about the flu vaccine? Do you think everyone should get the flu shot this year?

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