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No Flu Vaccine Shortage This Year

Posted - Sep. 27, 2003 at 8:20 a.m.



This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

Q: Could you update us on the coming flu season?

A: Fortunately, no shortage of flu vaccine is expected this year.

Flu-related complications kill 36,000 people annually in the United States, so getting a flu shot is valuable insurance.

A shot is required each year because flu viruses can change fast. The current vaccine is based on these changes.

The optimal time to get a flu shot is during October and November. It's recommended that high-risk individuals and people who might transmit the virus to them get a flu shot beginning in October, followed by the general population beginning in November.

High-risk groups include:

-Those over age 50.

-Residents of nursing homes and other such facilities.

-Adults and children over 6 months old with asthma or other chronic heart or lung conditions.

-Adults and children over 6 months old who need regular medical care due to conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, chronic kidney disease, or a weakened immune system (caused by medication or HIV infection, etc.).

-Children and teenagers (ages 6 months to 18 years) on long-term aspirin therapy. (Flu increases the risk for a serious condition called Reye syndrome in those taking aspirin.)

-Women who will be more than 3 months pregnant during the flu season.

-People who might transmit the flu to high-risk individuals (due to close contact): doctors, nurses, and other employees in hospitals and medical clinics, including emergency response workers; employees of nursing homes and long-term care facilities who have contact with residents; caretakers of high-risk individuals who live at home or in assisted living residences; and household members (including children) of people in high-risk groups.

Because even healthy kids who get the flu are at increased risk for hospitalization, a flu shot is now recommended for healthy children 6 to 23 months old.

Children under 9 years old receiving a flu shot for the first time should get it in October because they will need a booster shot a month later.

Who should not get a flu shot? Talk with your doctor if you:

-Are allergic to hen eggs (used in manufacturing the flu vaccine).

-Have had a severe reaction to the flu shot.

-Have previously developed Guillain-Barre syndrome shortly after getting a flu shot.

It should be understood that the flu vaccine is made with killed viruses and cannot cause the flu.

A flu vaccine in nasal spray form is available this year. Called FluMist, it's an alternative to the needle stick method, but its use is limited to healthy persons 5 to 49 years old.

An important reminder: Get a pneumonia shot if you've never had one.

Bacterial pneumonia claims more lives than the flu each year. It can be given at the same time as the flu shot.

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(Richard Harkness is a consultant pharmacist who writes on health care topics. You can write him at 1224 King Henry Drive, Ocean Springs, MS 39564. His e-mail address is rharkn@aol.com. Volume of mail prohibits individual replies; selected letters will be answered in his column.)

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(c) 2003, The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.). Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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