Getting Flu Shots

Getting the Flu Shot in Los Angles

The Flu Vaccine (Influenza Immunization)

Flu season begins in October and can last as late as May in Los Angeles. The best time to get immunized for the flu is in October and November, but it’s still worthwhile to immunize for influenza later in Los Angeles

What is influenza?

Influenza, or the flu, is an incredibly common illness. The flu affects more than 15% of the popoulation in the U.S. each year. More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications and about 36,000 people die from the flu.

The flu is a viral infection spread between people via secretions of the nose and lungs, such as sneezing. Flu (it is medically called influenza) is a respiratory infection, or primarily a lung infection. Respiratory infections caused by other viruses are often mistakenly called the flu. The differentiating symptoms are that Influenza often causes higher fever and severe body aches. While other viruses may cause these symptoms, it is less common.

Why vaccinate for the flu (influenza)?

The flu is a highly infectious and serious viral respiratory infection with prolonged and severe symptoms. It causes individuals who get the flu to be inactive for days on end. The flu also creates stresses for the body and can lead to greater bacterial infections. Bacterial respiratory infections are serious. They can cause death for both the elderly and the very young. While there are expensive medications to treat the flu once you have it, they are not as effective as the flu vaccination.

What is the vaccine for influenza?

Flu vaccine is an inactivated vaccine – it contains killed influenza virus. The flue vaccine is injected into muscles and stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies to the influenza virus. If the vaccinated person has the virus enter their body, the antibodies attack and kill the virus – preventing infection.

Each year there is a slight change in the influenza virus so the vaccine of the previous years is ineffective. Therefor, a new vaccine is prepared to immunize against the new influenza virus. Mostly scientists can accurately determine the types of influenza virus that will cause infections and prepare an appropriate vaccine.

Who should receive the flu vaccine?

There are certain groups that are particularly recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be vaccinated each year because they are at greater risk for serious complications from the flu. However, the influenza vaccine can help everyone.

The priority groups for vaccinations are:

  • People ages 65 and older.
  • People in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
  • People with chronic heart or lung conditions, including asthma.
  • People who needed regular medical care.
  • People who were hospitalized in the previous year for a metabolic disease (such as diabetes), chronic kidney disease, or weakened immune system.
  • Children 6 months to 18 years of age on long-term aspirin therapy.
  • Women expecting to be pregnant during the influenza season.
  • All children 6 to 23 months of age.
  • People with any condition that makes it hard to breathe or swallow, such as brain injury or disease, spinal cord injuries, seizure disorders, or other nerve or muscle disorders.

Other groups who should be vaccinated:

  • People 50 to 64 years of age.
  • People who may transmit flu to those at high risk.

Who should avoid the flu shot?

Those who should avoid the flu vaccine include:

  • People with a history of allergic reactions to eggs.
  • People who have previously shown a hypersensitivity to the flu vaccine.
  • People with a recent fever illness.
  • People who have developed Guillain-Barré syndrome from a previous flu vaccination.

How is the flu vaccine administered?

The flu vaccine is given as a single dose of 0.5 mL of liquid injected through the skin into muscle, usually into the side of the arm. Rubbing alcohol is used to sterilize the area before the injection.For more information see the treatment schedule for influenza.

How effective is the flu vaccine?

The primary determination of if the flu vaccine is going to be effective is going to depend on how well the virus strains used to prepare the flu vaccine match the flu viruses in circulation. When the match is good, the flu vaccine prevents influenza in about 70-90% of healthy adults who are below the age of 65. It’s slightly higher in children 1 to 15 years old.

However, for older people residing in nursing homes, the influenza vaccine can prevent severe illness, secondary complications and deaths. The flu shot has been 50-60% effective in preventing pneumonia and 80% effective in preventing influenza-related death. Having said that, the effectiveness in preventing influenza respiratory illness can be as low as from 30%-40%.

What side effects can occur with flu vaccination?

Side effects from a flu shot are rare. It is unusual to have a serious allergic reaction, but mild side effects include soreness at the site of the injection, muscle aching, fever, and feeling ill.

In 1976 a vaccination with the swine flu vaccine was associated with development of GBS or Guillain-Barré syndrome. GBS is an characterized by a fever, nerve damage, and muscle weakness. After careful studies it was determined that one person out of 1 million vaccinated persons may be at risk of getting GBS from the swine flu vaccine. For more information on Guillain-Barre Syndrome visit the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.


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