News reports have indicated that getting a flu vaccine early, especially in the elderly, may not be beneficial. To dissect the confusing information lets go through a few things we know:
In Maricopa County there have already been 3 cases of influenza. The season for the flu can begin as early as the summer, but typically it peaks after Christmas and before taxes are due.
Hospitalizations for the influenza virus in the United States range from 55,000 a year to over 400,000 per year. The majority of those people being over the age of 65 years.
Deaths from influenza primarily occur in those over the age of 65. Between 1976 and 2007 flu-associated deaths ranged from 3,000 to 49,000 people per year.
The elderly are clearly the most at risk, and a part of the reason is that the older a person gets the older their immune system gets and the less effective it is. This led to the recommendation that older people ought not to get vaccinated in the late summer (August).
When Should I get Vaccinated for the Flu?
The answer is typically when it becomes available, and if possible by October. Most outbreaks are in January, but getting the flu vaccine early allows the two weeks for the vaccine to become effective.
Who Should Get Yearly Vaccines for the Flu?
Anyone over the age of six months. Including women who are pregnant.
Flu Vaccine is Not Unlimited
There are about half as much vaccine available as there are people in the United States. If this is a bad flu season, you will want to get this. In terms of the Quadrivalent vaccine (the vaccine against four strains of flu) – there will only be 96 million doses available.
What About The Elderly and Declining Antibodies?
There is a special vaccine for the elderly called Fluzone High-Dose vaccine. Data shows that people who are older than 65 get a stronger immune response after Fluzone — this is what my 92 year old father will be getting.
Who Should Not Get the Flu Shot?
If you have an egg allergy there is recombinant vaccine for you – do not do the other. Flublock is approved for use. People with egg allergies can receive any licensed, recommended age-appropriate influenza vaccine and no longer have to be monitored for 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine. People who have severe egg allergies should be vaccinated in a medical setting and be supervised by a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic conditions.People with a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome should not get the vaccine.
If you are not feeling well, do not get the shot.
Children under the age of 6 months should not get the flu shot.
People with life-threatening allergies to the flu vaccine should not get this: allergies to gelatin, antibiotics, etc – talk to your doctor.
Efficacy of High-Dose versus Standard-Dose Influenza Vaccine in Older Adults
Carlos A. DiazGranados, M.D., Andrew J. Dunning, Ph.D., Murray Kimmel, D.O., Daniel Kirby, B.Sc., John Treanor, M.D., Avi Collins, B.Sc.N., Richard Pollak, D.P.M., Janet Christoff, R.N., John Earl, M.D., Victoria Landolfi, M.Sc., M.B.A., Earl Martin, D.O., Sanjay Gurunathan, M.D., Richard Nathan, D.O., David P. Greenberg, M.D., Nadia G. Tornieporth, M.D., Michael D. Decker, M.D., M.P.H., and H. Keipp Talbot, M.D., M.P.H.
N Engl J Med 2014; 371:635-645August 14, 2014DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1315727
Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and received his MD. Dr. Simpson, a renowned weight loss surgeon, is a leading advocate of culinary medicine. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit www.terrysimpson.com.