Councilman Mike Elam's Blog

Nov 01

[ARCHIVED] Why Do We Need Flu Shots Each Year?

The original item was published from November 1, 2016 3:07 PM to November 7, 2016 9:55 AM


Despite popular myth, a flu vaccine does not cause the illness, but it does provide a great deal of protection for our community. A flu vaccination triggers the development of antibodies in your body, providing protection against influenza viruses that cause widespread illness and thousands of deaths throughout the United States each year.Photo of a nurse asking people to get a flu shot

Why Do We Need a Flu Shot Every Year?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends an annual flu vaccination for everyone 6 months of age and older as the best way to protect against this serious illness. The recommendation to get the vaccination each year was issued because the types of influenza viruses often change from one season to the next; additionally protection begins to weaken about eight months after vaccination. Scientists from the CDC, the World Health Organization and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice (ACIP) analyze circulating influenza viruses on an ongoing basis to recommend the composition of the flu vaccine for the current season.

What’s the Benefit of the Flu Shot?
Annual vaccination is considered to be the best way to prevent the spread of the illness and to minimize the effects of the flu. When the composition of the vaccination “matches” the viruses in circulation, studies indicate that vaccinations reduce the risk of flu illness by 50-60 percent. However, even in years when the match isn’t exact or when the strains change, the vaccine can still help to minimize the effect of the illness — resulting in fewer trips to the doctor and fewer days missed at work or school for both the sick and their caregivers. Additionally, a widely vaccinated population also helps to minimize the risk that the illness could spread to those who are unable to be vaccinated or who have weakened immune systems.

What Types of Shots are Available?
Based on the scientific analysis, the St. Charles County Immunization Clinic is offering three types of influenza vaccinations for the 2016-2017 season:

  • A quadrivalent vaccine, which is designed to protect against four different flu viruses (an H1N1 virus, an H3N2 virus, and two influenza B viruses) and is appropriate for all individuals ages six months or older.
  • A pediatric influenza vaccine, which offers a smaller dosage of the quadrivalent vaccine. This vaccine is designed for children ages six months to 35 months. Children who are getting vaccinated against the flu for the first time may require two doses of this vaccine to be fully protected.
  • A “high-dose” vaccine, which is created for those 65 years of age or older. This type of vaccine contains four times the amount of antigen in a regular flu shot to boost the body’s ability to create antibodies against influenza virus. In recent years, 80-90 percent of the flu-related deaths in the U.S. have occurred in people 65 or older, and this “high-dose” vaccine has been shown to provide greater protection for those in this age group than the standard dose vaccine.

Why is the Nasal Spray Vaccination Not an Option?
The process of getting an injection can sometimes be scary for children (and adults), which led some to choose the nasal spray method of the flu vaccine. Unfortunately, studies have shown that this method has not been as effective in protecting individuals against influenza as the traditional shot method. As a result of this analysis and recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the ACIP, the nasal spray will not be offered by St. Charles County’s Immunization Clinic this year.

Is Vaccination Safe for Me and My Family?
Hundreds of millions of people have received the flu vaccine over the past 50 years, reporting side effects no greater than soreness at the injection site, a slight fever or minor aches. As with all vaccinations, flu shots are tested for safety by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before they are approved and are continually evaluated to identify any risks. In rare cases, the shot can cause a severe allergic reaction. Individuals who have an allergy to eggs or other concerns should contact their medical provider and be vaccinated in a medical setting.

Where Can I Get a Flu Shot in St. Charles County?
To protect our community against this contagious respiratory illness, the Division of Health Services’ Immunization Clinic now offers flu shots for adults and children on an appointment basis. Flu shots are $35-55 depending upon the preferred vaccine, but this cost is covered by most insurance policies and may be waived for those eligible for the Vaccines for Children program or the Adult 317 program. To schedule an appointment or if you have any questions, please call 636-949-1857.