As we head into the flu season, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has different advice this year for the flu vaccine.
Who should be vaccinated
The government recommends a yearly influenza vaccination for almost everyone starting at 6 months of age. Currently, only half of Americans receive one which is unfortunate since the flu kills about 24,000 Americans every year.
How many are vaccinated
Vaccination rates for children under 5 last year were 70% and 65% for seniors. Only a third of healthy adults ages 18 to 64 were vaccinated and that age group was the highest for hospital vaccinations last years related to the flu.
The CDC announces for the first time that the FluMist nasal spray is the preferred vaccine method for children ages 2 to 8. It can also be used by health people ages 2 to 49 who are not pregnant.
Other methods are available such as the regular flu shot, an egg-free shot for people allergic to eggs, high-dose shot for people over the age of 65 and may have a lower immune system, and a tiny needle shot that just penetrates the skin.
Advice for Seniors
The CDC is urging people 65 and older to receive a new kind of pneumonia vaccine along with the flu shot. This will be in addition to another long-used pneumonia vaccine, polysaccharide vaccine. The two pneumonia shots should be given 6 months apart. This will cut seniors’s risk of pneumococcal infection by 45 %.
When to get vaccinated
Every year it is difficult to predict when the flu will start spreading but the flu season usually peaks in January or February. Keep in mind that it takes about two weeks after receiving a vaccine for protection to kick in.
Insurance and Medicare usually cover the full price of the vaccine, without a copay most of the time. For those uninsured, it can cost about $30. Public Health clinics sometimes offer free or reduced-cost shots. A flu vaccine clinic can be found easily at the Texas Department of State Health Services webpage.
More information of influenza can be found at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.