It’s time for your flu shot

Published 11:01 am Monday, October 31, 2016

Flu shots are recommended every fall to protect the public from getting sick. Even though some local healthcare providers and pharmacists are reporting they haven’t seen in cases so far this flu season, plenty of people are lining up to get a shot.

Debby Runnels, nurse and administrator at Medical Associates of Vicksburg said her office hasn’t had a case of flu since July. While the flu can be contracted year-round, the flu season is generally October through May and is most common between December and March.

“We started giving flu shots in October,” she said.

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Lee Jones, a pharmacist at CVS Pharmacy, said she has not seen any flu cases this fall either.

“We haven’t had any this year. Probably because the flu shot works,” Jones said. “We’ve had a lot of people get the flu shot — more so in October, which is when it’s recommended.”

Some people like to get vaccinated early in September and others wait until later in January, but many recommend October and November as the best time to get a flu shot to be in full effect by the peak season. It takes two weeks for the immune system to respond fully to the shot.

Jones said because it is more common for people to get the flu in February and March it’s not that strange to see no cases in October. However Runnels said it is unusual for her office not see any positive flu diagnoses this late into the season.

She suggests the weather is a major factor in why no flu cases have been reported at the medical office yet this fall.

“It’s not been cold enough,” Runnels said. “The weather has been so warm.”

Runnels also said she hasn’t heard any predictions yet this year on what experts expect out of this year’s flu season.

“I haven’t heard a thing. It’s very strange. Usually the news is full of stuff about the flu,” Runnels said, adding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are mostly focusing on the Zika virus at the moment.

Even with no flu cases yet this year, she said it is important to get the shot. Flu shots are given every day at Medical Associates, and Runnels said all patients who come in are asked if they have gotten their shot yet.

“If not, we go ahead and give it,” she said.

One major difference in flu prevention is the nasal spray many took instead of a shot in prior years is not being administered this year.

“The nasal spray is not recommended for this season because of concerns about its effectiveness,” Runnels said.

She also said people with egg allergies are approved to take the shot now as opposed to prior years when the shot was discouraged to those with the allergy.

Both Medical Associates and CVS Pharmacy use the quadrivalent shot to cover patients against four strains to flu. A high dose shot is given to patients over age 65, Runnels said.

“It gives them better coverage,” Runnels said. “We’ve had a lot of 65 year olds and above come in and get their flu shots, which is really, really good even though we haven’t had any positives yet.”

The shot doesn’t always prevent people from getting sick. Jones said last year’s shot was only 23 percent effective overall according to a report she read.

“They were wrong last year, but it’s just a guess,” she said about the vaccine made to protect people from the strains of flu predicted to be the most prominent that year. She said last year’s effectiveness should not prevent anyone from getting a shot this year. Jones said compared to last year she has seen about the same number of people getting vaccinated.

“We’re talking about it every day to people. People are coming in and getting one,” she said. “It’s no charge for most people, so why not?”

The medical office typically administers shots through January. The pharmacy will give shots through March.