Fall 2015 Health Link Online

HealthLink Online

Uniting Children, Parents, Caregivers, and Health Professionals

Influenza Vaccine for 2015-2016

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Influenza vaccine helps to prevent thousands of deaths, hospitalizations, and millions of serious illnesses from influenza every year. The vaccine is safe. Many people have mistaken ideas about flu vaccine. Some think they will get the flu from the vaccine. Others think that since they’ve never had the disease, they won’t get it. Some think they have the “flu” when they have an uncomfortable short respiratory illness. Seasonal viruses other than influenza cause these short, mild illnesses. Usually, influenza is a severe and long-lasting illness. Healthy adults and children who don’t get vaccine can get very sick with flu. It can make them sick for months or kill them.

The American Academy of Pediatrics lists child care workers as a priority group to get flu vaccine. Everyone who is involved with child care and who is medically able to receive flu vaccine should get it. While some medications may reduce the length of the illness from influenza if given right away, they do not cure the disease.

More people get flu vaccine when peers or experts they trust urge them to do it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone older than 6 months of age should get flu vaccine annually. When more people get the vaccine, flu spreads less easily in groups, in families and in the community.

Having health insurance helps people get the vac-cine. The 2012 National Health Interview Survey found three times as many adults with health insurance got influenza vaccine compared with those without insurance. Most health insurance plans cover the full cost of the vaccine.

Every community has places to get the vaccine. Many adult and child health care professionals give flu vaccine in their offices. Community health clinics, pharmacies (adults only) and grocery stores give flu vaccine. Some grocery stores offer a discount on groceries to people who get the vaccine at the store. If you must pay for the vaccine, the charge is usually $30 to $35. That’s a lot less costly than missing many days at work due to influenza illness.

Flu vaccine is either a killed virus given as an injection or a weakened live virus given as a nasal spray. Neither of these influenza vaccines cause influenza disease. They may cause mild symptoms, such as tenderness at the site of the injection, muscle aches or low-grade fever for a few days. These symptoms are a small inconvenience to have the vaccine that prevents severe illness.

Identify an advocate for your program’s flu vaccine campaign. Ask someone to check to see who has received vaccine this year and who needs more reminders. Use the posters, information sheets and other tools on the CDC web-site at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm to help motivate full participation in this year's immunization effort. Select Free Resources > Print Materials > Family and Children > posters or handouts. Consider using lesson plans in the tool kit on this website called “Teaching Children About the Flu.”

If you or anyone around you has not yet had flu vaccine, ask a trusted health professional about your concerns. This conversation may change any misperceptions. It’s best to get the vaccine in the fall for protection during the peak of the season. Anytime after that is not too late to get some benefit.

Image source American Academy of Pediatrics