It’s that time of year again – the apples are ripe, the leaves are falling, and many of us are shopping for Halloween costumes. It’s also the perfect time for everyone 6 months and older to get a flu vaccine.
Last year on January 9, 2013, Mayor Thomas M. Menino declared a public health emergency in Boston. Health care providers were reporting over 10 times the number of flu cases seen during the previous flu season. The public health emergency eventually ended after an aggressive vaccination effort, but the 2012-2013 influenza season resulted in 494 hospitalizations and 22 deaths (including one child under 6 years old) in Boston residents.
Vaccination is the best protection against the flu (click here to read about common flu vaccine misconceptions). Each year, a new vaccine is created to protect against the top three to four strains of flu that are expected to be spreading around the community. Since the strains change every year and immunity from the previous year’s vaccine fades, everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every year to be protected. There are several different types of flu vaccines available, but the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) does not recommended any one vaccine over another. The most important thing you can do is to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Flu Shot vs. Flu Mist
It is best to talk with your health care provider about which vaccine is best for you. The flu shot is made with killed flu viruses and is given by injection with a needle. This vaccine is available for anyone 6 months of age and older who has not had a severe allergic reaction to vaccine components, such as eggs, or to a previous dose of flu vaccine.
The flu mist is made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu. The mist is given in the nose and is an option for healthy people 2 through 49 years of age. People who are pregnant, have long-term health problems (including muscle or nerve disorders), or have severely compromised immune systems should not get the flu mist.
In general, anyone with a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome should talk with his or her doctor before getting a flu vaccine.
Trivalent vs. Quadrivalent
The terms “trivalent” and “quadrivalent” refer to the number of flu virus strains contained in the vaccine. Trivalent vaccines contain the top three strains expected to be circulating this year, while the quadrivalent vaccine contains the top four strains.
The quadrivalent vaccine is not recommended over the trivalent vaccine. Most vaccines available this year will be trivalent and the most import thing you can do is to be vaccinated as soon as possible. Do not delay vaccination to wait for a quadrivalent vaccine. Click here to learn more.
A high-dose vaccine has been approved for people age 65 and older. There is currently no information that this vaccine provides better protection than the standard vaccine. The CDC has not recommended the high-dose vaccine over the standard vaccine. Because flu can be so serious in seniors, they should get vaccinated as soon as possible. Do not delay vaccination to wait for a high-dose vaccine. Click here to learn more.
Most flu vaccines are manufactured using chicken eggs, but a new flu vaccine available this year is manufactured without eggs (officially called Flublok®). This vaccine has been approved for adults ages 18-49. If you have avoided flu vaccines in the past because of an egg allergy, ask your doctor about the new, egg-free vaccine. Click here to learn more.
Find a Flu Vaccination Site
Vaccines are available in many locations around Boston:
- Contact your doctor about getting a flu vaccine.
- Click Here to find public flu clinics offered around the city.
- Click Here to find a pharmacy offering flu vaccines (Note that pharmacists in Massachusetts can only vaccinate those who are 18 years old and older. Please call ahead to confirm the pharmacy has vaccine available.)
For more information about flu and flu vaccines, visit www.bphc.org/flu or click here for our flu vaccine fact sheet. If you need help finding a doctor or getting health insurance, call the Mayor’s Health Line at (617) 534-5050.