On Your Health

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Get Your Flu Vaccine! What Every Oklahoman Needs to Know

11/18/2015

Posted in

It's that time of year again. Sadly, we're not talking about falling leaves, turkeys, snowflakes or pumpkin spiced lattes. The flu season is beginning to hit. Usually, the flu peaks in December through March, but over the last month in Oklahoma 17 people have already been hospitalized with the flu, according to the Oklahoma Department of Health. The flu is more than just a nuisance, it can be extremely harmful to your health. So far, there are no reported deaths in the state, although the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 200,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 die from flu-related problems in the U.S. annually. Last year in Oklahoma there were 114 deaths, with more than 2,000 hospitalizations related to the virus. Although the very young, pregnant women, and those over 60 are most susceptible, even healthy children and adults can get very sick. It’s still early in the season, so getting vaccinated is the single best way to protect yourself against the flu. Dr. S. Christopher Shadid, a family medicine physician at INTEGRIS, answers a few questions about the the flu vaccine below.

Do you know if the flu season is expected to be particularly bad this year?

We do not yet know if this year is supposed to be particularly bad for the disease. But I do know that we believe the vaccine producers hit the flu vaccine right on this year (as opposed to last year's vaccine) and therefore if you receive the flu shot you have a very good likelihood of avoiding the flu this year. Each year, the specific flu vaccine is made as a guess. They are guessing which strain will be the most prevalent for the year and we are vaccinating you against that. They think they nailed it this year. It is still possible to get a different strain but we believe it is much less likely to get the disease this year.

Who should get the flu vaccine this year?

EVERYONE over the age of 6 months! The flu vaccine has proven time and again to be the best defense against the flu, which can be deadly. It shouldn’t matter if you receive the flu shot (not a live vaccine) or the flu mist (a live vaccine). However, you should not have the mist if you are immunocompromised (which means you are on immunosuppressive medications, have cancer or have immune disease), if you are pregnant, or if you are outside of the ages 2 to 49. Additionally, those who are over the age of 65 should get the high dose flu shot. Finally, if you have an egg allergy, there is a new vaccine called “RIV3” that is approved for those 18 years and older that is not egg based.
There you have it. There's no excuse not to get your flu vaccine this year, even if you are afraid of shots! It just might save your life, or at least save a week of your life you'd have to spend in bed with the flu. To get the flu vaccine, go to your neighborhood INTEGRIS clinic or INTEGRIS pharmacy.  Also, you can check out this Healthmap Vaccine Finder for other locations near you.

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