back, summerís over, and area pharmacies are enticing
customers with low-cost flu vaccinations on every corner.
Baltimore Sun checked in with Dr. Kathleen M. Neuzil, director
of the Center for Vaccine Development at University of
Maryland School of Medicine, and area pediatrician Dr. Dan
Levy, to pose questions about this yearís influenza vaccine.
should I get a flu shot?
would be good.
season in Maryland is usually between October and April,"
said Levy. "It tends to peak out in colder months when
kids are indoors coughing on each other."
prepare, Neuzil advises getting a flu shot by the end of
October. But sooner may be better for some people. "Itís
more important to get the dose than to wait and not get a
vaccine takes a week or two to be effective, and those who
wait may be out of luck if the flu hits early.
getting the flu shot for the first time need two doses, four
weeks apart. "Absolutely children need to receive a
vaccine as early as possible," Neuzil said.
should get a vaccine?
Almost everyone. The Center for Disease Control recommends
that everyone older than 6 months get a flu vaccine.
healthy. Why do I need a flu shot?
not all about you.
are a lot of young healthy people who feel invincible and donít
believe they need the flu shot," said Neuzil. "Also
remember that youíre getting an influenza vaccine to protect
the people around you," such as babies, elderly folks and
those with compromised immune systems.
talked about the principle of "herd immunization"
ó meaning "the more people in a population you get
covered with a vaccine the more likely it is that youíll
prevent an epidemic," he said. "If children donít
get sick themselves, they canít spread the flu."
this yearís flu going to be bad?
to say. Influenza can be a life-threatening illness, but its
virulence varies from year to year.
favorite line is Ďinfluenza is predictably unpredictable,í"
last year was a severe season in the United States, it was
less severe in other parts of the world. Doctors canít say
when it will hit, or how virulent it will be.
Q: Can I
get a nasal spray?
This year the nasal spray will be widely available in the
United States. Neuzil says itís just as effective as a shot
for people ages 2 and older. "Traditionally the nasal
spray has worked extremely well in children," she said.
years, some authorities had been cautious in endorsing the
nasal spray, Neuzil said. But it was widely and successfully
used in the U.K. last year, and other studies have proven its
year, "Parents can use either the spray or the shot as
long as the child is at least 2 years or older."
recommends the nasal spray flu vaccine (or live attenuated
influenza vaccine) as an option for non-pregnant individuals
ages 2 to 49.
there any risks associated with the flu shot?
"I think there is a lot of hesitancy about vaccines in
general," Neuzil said. But the flu shot has been around
for a long time ó and scientists have studied it to prevent
side effects. Common side effects include a sore arm from the
shot or a runny nose from the nasal spray.
older versions of the vaccine, perhaps 40 years ago, may have
caused some side effects, modern vaccines are well-tolerated,
Q: Is it
possible to get the flu even after being vaccinated?
"The vaccine is never 100 percent effective," Levy
even for those who do end up getting the flu, the vaccine will
help it be less severe, and it will be less likely that the
patient ends up in the hospital.
said about 180 children died in the U.S. from flu last year
ó he thinks many of those deaths could have been prevented
had the kids been vaccinated.
Q: Can I
get sick from the flu shot?
"You cannot get sick from the flu shot," Neuzil
said. "Thereís no live virus there."
portion of people may find that they coincidentally get a
headache the following day and may be tempted to blame the
vaccine. "Itís human nature to correlate the two,"
reality, she said, the flu shot doesnít make people sick.
"Sometimes there are other viruses that are circulating
in the community."