SARASOTA, Fla. – Every year it seems we are getting our flu shots earlier. From the very young to the young at heart we are all rolling up our sleeves. Or are we?
The flu can cause serious illness and even death, particularly among persons aged 65 and older, children younger than two, and those with medical conditions at high risk for complications from influenza.
The CDC recommends routine annual flu vaccines for all persons 6 or older who don't have contraindications.
4-year-old Mikayla's ready to start school, and her preparations included a flu shot. “I just think it's important, because with the flu out there you can get really sick if you don't get the shot,” says her mom, Francine Medeiros.
She says Mikayla had her first flu shot when she was two. “So I personally do it, but I know there's some people that don't do it.”
Forty Carrots Preschool director Rebecca Lockwood says while standard immunization is required of students, the flu vaccine is not. “The flu shot's an optional vaccine; some families will choose to get it, and then other families choose not to. It's entirely up to them.”
Mikayla's at one end of the spectrum, but primary care physician Dr. Lana Nusbaum works with another group of people she says benefit from the flu vaccine. “As we get older, our immune systems are not as strong as they used to be. Many of our patients have chronic illnesses, and for that reason their immunity is not what it would be in a younger person.”
Nusbaum says although we feel that flu shots are very safe, and protect people from the flu, not everybody is on board. “About 50% of my patients refuse to have flu shots.”
Francis Schuer is one of them. “I don't get flu shots because my reality is I should keep my immune system in really top notch condition. In which case if I do that, I won’t be bothered by mister flu.”
71-year-old Judy Bundrick has been getting flu shots for about thirty five years, but her co-worker did not. “She didn't like to have anything in her body, you know. So I've been saying that she really needs to get the flu shot.”
These infections are passed around from person to person, says Dr. Nusbaum, and unless you live in a bubble, you're just as prone to get these things as anyone in another part of the country. “People like to think that because this is the Suncoast and they're outside, and the sun is shining and the weather's warm, that they are not going to get these things.”
Mikayla's advice? “Put out your arm.”
There is now a quadrivalent flu vaccine designed to protect against four different flu viruses; two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses. A standard-dose quadrivalent shot can be given to children as young as 6 months of age.
Other standard-dose quadrivalent shots are approved for people 3 years and older, and the standard-dose quadrivalent nasal spray vaccine is approved for healthy people 2 through 49 years of age.
For people wanting to get a flu vaccine, but have an egg allergy, RIV3, an egg-free vaccine, is now an option for vaccination of persons aged 18 through 49 years with egg allergy of any severity.