Influenza, or the flu, is a serious illness caused by the influenza virus. The influenza vaccine can help prevent you from getting infected with certain strains of the influenza virus and is effective in 70-80% of people.
People who should usually be vaccinated include adults over age 50 (universal vaccination of adults), especially adults over age 65 and/or adults with chronic medical problems, and children over six months of age with a serious long-term health problem, including heart disease, kidney disease, lung disease, asthma, diabetes, blood disorders or if they have a weakened immune system, and anyone else who wants to lower their risk of getting the flu.
Since children with influenza can be very contagious, children who are in contact with or who may expose high risk adults or other children may also benefit from getting a flu shot.
Because of recent problems with vaccine supplies in recent years, flu shots have been going to certain priority groups, including:
If your child is under nine years old, then he will require two doses of the influenza vaccine given one month apart if this is the first time that he has received it. Protection takes about two weeks to develop after being vaccinated, so it is recommended that vaccination occur before the start of flu season in October or November.
- persons aged 65 years and older, with and without chronic health conditions
- residents of long-term care facilities
- persons aged 264 years with chronic health conditions
- children aged 623 months
- pregnant women
- health-care personnel who provide direct patient care
- household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children aged <6 months
Do keep in mind that the CDC is recommending that only people in priority groups get their flu shot before October 24, 2005 this year.
Children older than age nine, or children who have already received the flu vaccine only need one shot.
Because your body's immune response to the vaccine decreases by the time of the next flu season and because the strains of flu virus in the vaccine change each year, you must be immunized each year to have adequate protection.
Young children should receive a split virus vaccine that has less side effects than the whole virus vaccine used in older children (over age 12) and adults.
Children who have had a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to eggs or to a previous dose of influenza vaccine or if they have a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome should not receive this vaccine.
Mild problems or side effects that can occur after receiving the influenza vaccine include soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given, fever, or aches. Severe problems are very rare, but may include life-threatening allergic reactions.
You can not get the flu from the vaccine.
A new flu vaccine that can be given intranasally (so you don't need to get a shot) is now available too (Flumist).
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