Discussion of the flu shot seems to evoke a lot of emotion in people. I’ve heard the flu shot referred to as ‘the shot we love to hate.’ That’s a pretty accurate statement for me. I hate that it causes my medical assistants to be spread thin (we offer vaccines to the whole family at anytime without appointments). I hate that some years the strains covered aren’t exactly the strains in our community (making it essentially a swing and a miss). I especially hate that there is no flu mist for the 2016-2017 season.
In case you haven’t heard, the studies showed that the flu mist this year wasn’t effective, so it was pulled from the market. But despite my frustrations, it’s the best that medicine has to offer to protect us. Even though sometimes it isn’t perfectly effective, or there are occasional people who get reactions to the shot, I feel like something is better than nothing.
Every year, I take care of dozens of patients who have true “influenza” (the actual bug that the shot is protecting against, not the vomit “flu” that people sometimes refer to). Influenza is classically a virus that causes horrible fever, body aches, and respiratory symptoms. Without exception, if they didn’t get the shot and catch the bug, they all say something about wishing they had gotten the shot. It’s absolutely a miserable virus.
Who should get the shot?
- Technically everyone over 6 months of age should get the shot.
- However, certain groups are at highest risk for having serious illness or complications from influenza and those patients we make special effort to get vaccinated. They are:
- The very young (6 months to 3 years)
- Those with underlying respiratory diseases (like asthma)
- Those with immune problems
- Those in high exposure professions who may be exposed to vulnerable populations (like doctors and nurses)
- Children who were premies (and are now older than 6 months)
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women
Can I get the flu from the flu shot?
No. The flu shot (the injectable version) is a killed vaccination. It is medically impossible to get the flu from the flu shot. Now the flu mist (which again isn’t available this year) is technically “live,” so it is technically possible to get the flu from that shot.
Do I recommend it?
Yes. I recognize the short comings of the shot, but it’s the best we’ve got. I haven’t broken the news to my own kids yet that they are getting shots this year (I always bring home flu mists for them) and I imagine that they aren’t going to be happy with me, but I don’t want them to get sick. But shots will happen this month. October is a good month to get your flu shot.