By: Randy Powell, M.D., Plymouth Harbor’s Medical Director

Picture14Why should you get vaccinated against the flu?

Influenza is a serious disease with nearly 30,000 deaths each year in the United States. Eighty-five percent of those are in people over 65 years of age. Flu season in the United States can begin as early as October and last as late as May. During this time, flu viruses are circulating at higher levels. If people are willing to get it, the flu vaccine significantly reduces the amount of viral exposure.

Can you get the flu from the vaccine?

The flu vaccine has been improved to the point that there is no significant risk of illness or reaction. It is possible to get mild, short-lasting side effects from the vaccine, such as aches or soreness where the shot was given, but the vaccine cannot cause the flu. While the flu shot is preferred, people who have had a severe allergic reaction to eggs can get the recombinant flu vaccine (or nasal spray), which was produced without any egg products.

How does the vaccine work?

Flu vaccines cause antibodies (cells that help fight infections) to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These serve as protection against infection from viruses that are found in the vaccine. The seasonal flu vaccine protects against influenza viruses that research shows will be most common during the upcoming season.

What types of vaccines are available?

Human defenses become weaker with age, which places older adults at a higher risk of severe illness from influenza. The standard flu vaccine protects you from three different flu viruses. Those who are 65 or older can receive the Fluzone High-Dose vaccine, which is four times stronger than the regular flu shot. Plymouth Harbor will be offering this preservative-free, high-dose vaccine this year. The vaccination process is most effective if everyone participates. Join the team!

*Resources used for this article include: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.