The upcoming preparations for flu season 2014-2015 are already underway. Influenza vaccines are now available for public use and doctors and nurses are already giving flu shots.
For our first installment of Emerging Infectious Diseases, a new series in the UMHS Endeavour, we’ll look at what doctors and students at American and Caribbean medical schools can expect from the upcoming winter flu season, from vaccines available to which patients should be vaccinated. We will also debunk some of the common myths about flu shots.
Flu Vaccine Now Available in USA
Flu vaccine shots are now available throughout most of the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends doctors and nurses should vaccinate patients by October, before the season begins. The CDC says “manufacturers have projected they will provide between 154-160 million doses of vaccine for the U.S. market.” Flu vaccine is available in various forms: intramuscular, intradermal and intranasal (spray).
The CDC says all 2014-2015 influenza vaccines protect against the following three viruses:
• an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
• an A/Texas/50/2012 (H3N2)-like virus
• A B/Massachusetts/2/2012-like virus.
Some of the 2014-2015 flu vaccine also protects against an additional B virus (B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus).
The CDC notes the following:
• It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu.
• Those children aged 6 months through 8 years who need two doses of vaccine should receive the first dose as soon as possible to allow time to get the second dose before the start of flu season. The two doses should be given at least 4 weeks apart.
• Starting in 2014-2015, CDC recommends use of the nasal spray vaccine (LAIV) in healthy children 2 through 8 years of age, when it is immediately available and if the child has no contraindications or precautions to that vaccine. Recent studies suggest that the nasal spray flu vaccine may work better than the flu shot in younger children. However, if the nasal spray vaccine is not immediately available and the flu shot is, children age 2 through 8 years old should get the flu shot.
For more information on CDC guidelines for the 2014-2015 influenza season, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/vaccination/index.htm
Common Myths About Flu Shots
Go online and you’ll find lots of misinformation about flu shots, particularly on such social media boards as Pinterest.com. Harvard Health Publications (http://www.health.harvard.edu/flu-resource-center/10-flu-myths.htm) debunks some of the most common myths about flu shots.
Believing you’ll actually catch the flu from the vaccine is one of the largest and most absurd fallacies heard each year. Harvard Health Publications says, “The vaccine is made from an inactivated virus that can’t transmit infection. So people who get sick after receiving a flu vaccination were going to get sick anyway. It takes a week or two to get protection from the vaccine. But people assume that because they got sick after getting the vaccine, the shot caused their illness.”
The only flu vaccine in recent years that actually contained a small amount of live virus was the H1N1 (Swine Flu) vaccine, but the slight fever and achy feeling only lasted a few hours after the injection and went away the next day. Flu vaccines for 2014-2015 contain no live virus.
Two other big myths are that flu is “just a bad cold” and that “healthy people don’t need to be vaccinated.”
Harvard Health Publications notes that, although influenza may cause cold-like symptoms, each year in the USA alone “36,000 people die and more than 200,000 are hospitalized each year because of the flu.”