Put Up Your Flu Shield
If you were going to a place where malaria was rampant, you would make a point to get vaccinated. Embarking on flu season here in the United States, the need for protection is equally important.
“The flu shot has been proven to be the most effective prevention of the flu and now the influenza vaccine is recommended for everyone. It used to be you had to have certain diseases or be immunocompromised, but now it’s recommended for all people older than six months with rare exception,” says Michael Brown, infection control coordinator at Vail Valley Medical Center.
Some people have complained that in spite of getting a flu shot, they still get the flu. This is why for the first time this season, VVMC has decided to offer a quadrivalent vaccine, which protects against four different strains of the flu virus rather than the traditional three.
The traditional flu vaccine – the trivalent – protects against two A viruses and one B virus. But according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), two B viruses have been identified to spread every season. In hopes of providing broader protection, developers created the quadrivalent vaccine aimed at both A viruses and both B viruses.
The flu season typically begins when the temperature drops regularly, it peaks in December and lasts through April or even May. Both VVMC pharmacies in Vail and at Shaw Regional Cancer Center offer the vaccine throughout the winter on a walk-in basis from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Vail on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Edwards.
More than believing that flu shots are ineffective, VVMC Director of Pharmacy Stu Read points out that most of the time flu shot detractors are afraid of needles.
“Overcoming the needle phobia is harder to convince them more than that it doesn’t work. It definitely works 70 percent of the time, and if it doesn’t work, your flu is generally less severe with the shot,” Read says.
Anyone who has had a bad case of the flu – crippling muscle aches, a fever that makes even your ears clammy, a stuffy nose, knife-cutting sore throat and exhaustion to the point you can barely open your eyes – can attest that a little prick in the arm is better any day.
There is also a belief that a flu shot actually injects the flu virus into the body. This is not true.
“The inactivated flu vaccine is a dead virus and it cannot give you the flu,” Read says. “The vaccine takes two weeks to kick in. If you get a flu vaccine and then get the flu, you’re not getting it from the vaccine, but probably because the vaccine hasn’t had time to work through your system.”
Other flu vaccine naysayers claim that they are young and healthy and therefore not vulnerable to the flu virus. The reality is that some seasons, certain strains actually target younger individuals, which is why the vaccine is now recommended for everyone.
“There have been years when the strains effect populations we wouldn’t expect. There was even a strain to which the over 50 population had a natural immunity,” Brown says. “It’s really very hard to predict.”
This is why VVMC is offering the quadrivalent vaccine this season and a predicted 30 million doses will be administered across the United States.
“You cannot over-emphasize how important it is to get a flu vaccination – either the quadrivalent or the trivalent,” Brown says. “Obviously the more people who get vaccinated, the fewer cases of flu are out there and it’s less of an epidemic. We just decided to offer the quadrivalent because we felt it had more coverage.”
For more information about the flu vaccine or the Eagle Valley and Edwards Pharmacies, visit www.vvmc.com/flu or call (970) 569-7676.
Eagle Valley Pharmacy inside Vail Valley Medical Center and Edwards Pharmacy inside the Shaw Regional Cancer Center building are both services provided by Vail Valley Medical Center, a nonprofit since 1965.
Flu by the numbers:
- Every year 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu.
- About 32,000 U.S. residents die every year due to flu-related illness.
- A case of the flu typically lasts one to two weeks.
- In the last 10 years, flu vaccines have proven to be 60 to 90% effective.
- The quadrivalent vaccine is too new to have any statistics yet as far as effectiveness compared to the traditional trivalent.
- Of the 130 million doses of flu vaccine available for the 2013-14 season, about 30 million are quadrivalent.
- The quadrivalent flu vaccination is $35 at VVMC or is covered by most prescription insurance plans.