Annual immunization against influenza A and B is the most effective method of preventing infection. Studies with large populations have shown reduced complications, fewer doctor visits for “colds”, fewer days off of work for illness, etc. Although we have all heard of people seemingly catching the flu after immunization, there is no biological reason this should happen and is thought to be a coincidence.
There are two kinds of vaccines: an intramuscular inactivated vaccine and a live-attenuated intranasal vaccine. These vaccines are best given in October or November, but vaccines should continue to be given to unvaccinated people until the end of the flu season in April. Immunity is present about 2 weeks after vaccination.
The adult patient groups for which the intramuscular vaccine is recommended are:
- chronic health conditions of the heart or lungs (including asthma), chronic metabolic conditions such as diabetes, or immunosuppression - any age
- pregnancy in any trimester
- any person over 50
- healthy household contacts and caregivers of children age 0-5
- health-care workers and others who can transmit influenza to those at risk.
Soreness at the injection site is a common side effect from the intramuscular vaccine, but should pass in a day or two. Fever, malaise, and myalgia type symptoms are much less common but also can last for two days. The vaccine does contain a small amount of egg protein and should not be given to anyone with severe egg allergy.
The current vaccine provides no immunity for avian influenza. Research is being done for vaccine components that would be protective against these strains. Stay tuned for more information in this area next year.
In short, the influenza vaccine is an effective vaccine recommended to many, but in actuality makes sense to be given to anyone who desires it. Think about it, and call us if there are any concerns or questions.