Not Too Late to Get Flu Shot: January 20, 2013

As Southwest Florida hits peak season, and visitors make their way here, they may be giving the flu virus a ticket to spread. Flu season came early this year, but it’s not too late to protect yourself.

“Current CDC recommendations are that everybody receives a flu shot. Especially older patients, the very young patients and pregnant patients are at highest risk,” says Dr. Christina Cavanagh, family medicine practitioner with Lee Memorial Health System.

This year’s vaccine is doing a good job protecting against three new flu strains: two flu A’s and one flu B. Also new this year is a mini-shot. It’s an intradermal shot the pricks the skin’s surface.

“It’s a very, very small needle. It’s supposed to be an ‘ouch’ less version of the flu vaccine. It goes directly under the skin where the cells are that produce that immune response, so you don’t have to get quite as much of the vaccine in there, which is why it’s a small shot,” says Dr. Cavanagh.

For children who want no sting at all, last year an inhalable version rolled out.

“The flu mist is another option for people who are afraid of needles. It’s indicated for anyone from the age of 2 up to 63 it does have some live virus in the vaccine it has been inactivated so it cannot cause the flu but it is a little bit more likely to cause flu-like symptoms: low grad fever, muscle aches, cough and congestion but generally those symptoms are mild,” says Dr. Cavanagh.

Older people can choose to get a high dose vaccine, which its hope will provide enhanced protection.

“It has a higher dose of the antigen in it. The thought is that elderly patients don’t have as big of a response against vaccines, so we hope by giving them a bigger dose of the vaccine that they’ll really active their immune system. We won’t know for the next couple of years if it actually works better,” says Dr. Cavanagh.

All of the vaccines need about two weeks to take full effect, so health experts agree; the time is now, to give it a shot.