Excuses to avoid a flu shot used to be plentiful, but no more. No insurance? Free shots are available.
Not enough time? Waltz into almost any grocery store or pharmacy and get the shot, or go to one of the “drive-through” flu shot clinics where you don’t even have to get out of your car.
Don’t want to have a sore arm? Check if your health care provider has Fluzone Intradermal, a flu vaccine that can be given with a very small needle, reducing muscle soreness.
I used to be among those who found an excuse not to have a flu shot, until a severe case of the flu felled me. The spinning room, blazing fever, four-alarm headache, and body aches truly made me feel like I wasn’t going to make it.
The scariest part of being so ill was that our then-toddler could have been playing with knives or downing a bottle of drain cleaner, and I don’t think I would have been able to get up and rescue him. It took almost a month before I felt entirely well again. After that episode, I got a flu shot every year, religiously. I still shiver a bit when I think about being that sick.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older get a flu shot. Although the CDC says there is no way to predict when flu season will begin or how severe it will be, I’d bet good money that it will ramp up just in time to ruin a lot of people’s holidays. Even if you don’t have to worry about an unattended toddler, get the vaccine so you don’t miss that New Year’s Eve party and, more important, so that you don’t risk giving the flu to an elderly or ill person, or an infant, for whom the flu could be fatal.
The CDC also recommends getting the vaccine early, as soon as it is available. That would be now, for those of you who are thinking about procrastinating. According to the Orange County Health Care Agency, the inoculation takes about two weeks to go into full effect.
“Each year we have preventable deaths from flu infection,” said David Nunez, M.D., medical director of the family health division of the Orange County Health Care Agency. “If folks would only take the time to get the flu vaccine, it would be a real benefit to their health,” he said. He added that each year the preventable deaths from flu include children.
The vaccine contains an inactive form of the three influenza viruses that research indicates will be the most common during the upcoming flu season. The shot cannot make you ill, Dr. Nunez said, although a surprising number of people continue to believe this myth (I know such a person. Not mentioning any names).
The vaccination is especially important for people who are at risk of severe flu complications, or who live with or care for someone at high risk. High-risk groups include pregnant women, very young children, and people with chronic medical conditions such as asthma diabetes, heart or lung disease, and people in nursing homes. Not only do you create your own protective barrier from the flu if you and your family members get the vaccine, you will avoid unwittingly passing it on to someone who is vulnerable, and for whom the flu could mean hospitalization or even death.
Pregnant women who have had a flu shot pass on the antibodies to their baby through the placenta, which protects the infant from flu after birth. This is critical, because babies younger than 6 months cannot be vaccinated against the flu, and are very vulnerable to flu complications.
A high-dose flu shot is available for people 65 and older. If you can’t bear needles, even the smaller one used with Fluzone Intradermal, the nasal form of the flu vaccine is available for healthy people ages 2 to 49 who are not pregnant.
Who Should Avoid the Shot
According to the CDC, the following groups should not get the flu vaccination: people with a severe allergy to chicken eggs, children younger than 6 months, people who are ill with a fever (they should wait until they are well to have the shot), and anyone with a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome that occurred after a flu vaccination
Click here for the nearest free flu shot clinic near you.
Additionally, free flu shots are available beginning Nov. 1 every Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Orange County Health Care Agency, 1725 W. 17th St., Santa Ana.
The City of Long Beach offers several free flu shot clinics here.