Friday, October 15, 2010
ROCHESTER, Minn. — The new flu season is approaching. The October issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource covers who needs the vaccine, why it's important and what's different this year.
Who needs vaccinations: With just a few exceptions, everyone 6 months and older should get the seasonal flu vaccine, according to new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vaccine is especially important for those considered at high risk of complications, including adults older than 50, young children, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease or a weakened immune system.
The vaccination is given as a shot. Or, a nasal spray called FluMist is an option for healthy people ages 2 to 49.
Best time to be vaccinated: It is wise to get the vaccine as soon as it's available. After vaccination, two or more weeks are necessary to develop antibodies to the flu virus.
New this year: Like every year, the vaccine will protect against the influenza viruses that researchers believe are most likely to cause illness. This year's flu vaccine includes protection against the novel H1N1 (swine) virus. Last season, a separate vaccination was needed for H1N1.
Also new this season, people 65 and older can opt for a vaccine called Fluzone High-Dose. The vaccine is identical to the standard flu shot, but contains four times the amount of each viral strain antigen, increasing the likelihood of an effective immune response.
Why flu vaccinations are important: Every year in the United States, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized and about 36,000 die of the seasonal flu and its complications. During a regular flu season, about 90 percent of flu deaths occur in adults 65 and older.
When there's a good match between the seasonal flu vaccine and circulating strains of the flu virus, the flu shot is between 70 and 90 percent effective in warding off illness in healthy people under age 65. It's hoped that the new high-dose vaccine will enhance protection in those 65 and older.
The vaccination is not recommended for:
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