New Haven (WTNH) -
Health experts are already advisingpeople they should get their flu shot.
On Good Morning ConnecticutSunday Dr. DavidKatz from Yale New Haven Hospital answered some commonquestions about the flu, and whether you need ashot.
Below are some ofthose frequently asked questions and answers complied by Dr.Katz.
When should I get a fluvaccination?
The Centers forDisease Control and Prevention recommends that people get theirflu vaccine as soon as vaccine becomes available in theircommunity. Vaccination before December is best since this timingensures that protective antibodies are in place before flu activityis typically at its highest. CDC continues to encourage people toget vaccinated throughout the flu season, which can begin as earlyas October and last
as late as May.
Over the course of the flu season,many different influenza viruses can circulate at different timesand in different places. As long as flu viruses are still spreadingin the community, vaccination can provide protectivebenefit.
In addition, there are other peoplewho may benefit from vaccination as late or April or May, even ifinfluenza viruses are no longer circulating in the United States.This includes:
Persons likely to be traveling tothe Southern Hemisphere where influenza may be circulating beforethe 2009-10 vaccine is available, and Children younger than 9 beingvaccinated for the first time who still have not received theirsecond recommended dose of vaccine.
(If they get their second dose, thenthey will only need one dose of vaccine next season. If they do notget their second dose, they will still need to get two doses ofvaccine the next season in order to best be protected by thevaccine. This is because studies have shown that two doses areneeded in children younger than 9 the first year they arevaccinated in order to maximize the protective benefit fromvaccination.)
Once you get vaccinated, your bodymakes protective antibodies in about two weeks. However, childrenyounger than 9 years old who are being vaccinated for the firsttime still need a second dose 4 or more weeks later in order to beprotected.
Does getting vaccinated against flu early in the seasonpose a risk that immunity may wane before the end of theseason?
Flu vaccination provides protectionagainst the influenza strains contained in the vaccine through oneinfluenza season. Vaccination can begin as soon as vaccine isavailable. Studies have not demonstrated a benefit of receivingmore than one dose during an influenza season, even among elderlypersons with weakened immune systems.
Is it too late to get vaccinated after Thanksgiving (or theend of November)?
No. CDC recommends that providersbegin to offer influenza vaccination as soon as vaccine becomesavailable in the fall, but if you have not been vaccinated byThanksgiving (or the end of November), it can still be protectiveto get vaccinated in December or later because influenza diseaseusually peaks in January or February most years, and disease canoccur as late as May.
Does flu vaccine work rightaway?
No. It takes about two weeks aftervaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provideprotection against influenza virus infection. In the meantime, youare still at risk for getting the flu. That's why it's better toget vaccinated early in the fall, before the flu season really getsunder way.
Can I get the flu even though I got a flu vaccine thisyear?
Yes. The ability of flu vaccine toprotect a person depends on two things:
- The age and health status of the person getting vaccinated
- The similarity or "match" between the virus strains in the vaccine and those circulating in the community.
If the viruses in the vaccine andthe influenza viruses circulating in the community are closelymatched, vaccine effectiveness is higher. If they are not closelymatched, vaccine effectiveness can be reduced. However, it'simportant to remember that even when the viruses are not closelymatched, the vaccine can still protect many people and preventflu-related complications. Such protection is possible becauseantibodies made in response to the vaccine can provide someprotection (called cross-protection) against different, but relatedstrains of influenza viruses. For more information about vaccineeffectiveness, visit How Well Does the Seasonal Flu VaccineWorK?
Why do I need to get vaccinated against the flu everyyear?
Flu viruses change from year toyear, which means two things. First, you can get the flu more thanonce during your lifetime. The immunity (natural protection thatdevelops against a disease after a person has had that disease)that is built up from having the flu caused by one virus straindoesn't always provide protection when a new strain is circulating.Second, a vaccine made against flu viruses circulating last yearmay not protect against the newer viruses. That is why theinfluenza vaccine is updated to include current viruses everyyear.
Another reason to get flu vaccineevery year is that after you get vaccinated your immunity declinesover time and may be too low to provide protection after ayear.
How are the viruses for flu vaccineselected?
Each year, many laboratoriesthroughout the world, including in the United States, collect fluviruses. Some of these flu viruses are sent to one of four WorldHealth Organization (WHO) reference laboratories, one of which isat the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta,for detailed testing. These laboratories also test how wellantibodies made to the current vaccine react to the circulatingvirus and new flu viruses. This information, along with informationabout flu activity, is summarized and presented to an advisorycommittee of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and at aWHO meeting. These meetings result in the selection of threeviruses (two subtypes of influenza A viruses and one influenza Bvirus) to go into flu vaccines for the following fall and winter.Usually, one or two of the three virus strains in the vaccine arechanged each year.
Why do manufacturers and distributors take a phasedapproach to vaccine distribution?
Influenza vaccine production beginsas early as 6-9 months before the beginning of vaccinedistribution. Even with this early start, it isn't possible tocomplete the entire production and distribution process prior tothe vaccination season, particularly given the limited number ofinfluenza vaccine manufacturing plants in the United States and thelarge number of doses that are produced eachyear.
Instead, influenza vaccinedistribution takes place in a phased fashion over a number ofmonths. It begins in late summer for some manufacturers and vaccineproducts and usually completes near the end of November or early inDecember. This system can leave doctors and other vaccine providerswith uncertainty about when they can expect to receive their fullorder of vaccine and can make it difficult for them to plan theirvaccination activities. Manufacturers and distributors work to tryto get some vaccine to as many providers as possible as soon aspossible so that they can begin vaccinating their patients. Gettingsome vaccine to all providers early in the season is important,because all providers serve at least some high-risk patients (suchas people 50 years of age and older or those with chronic healthconditions such as asthma, kidney disease, diabetes, lung diseaseand weakened immune system) and their householdcontacts.
What role does the Department of Health and Human Servicesplay in the supply and distribution of the seasonal influenzavaccine?
Influenza vaccine production anddistribution are primarily private sector endeavors. The Department of Healthand Human Services and CDC do not have the authority to controlinfluenza vaccine distribution nor the resources to manage such aneffort. However, the Department has made significant efforts toenhance production capacity of seasonal influenza vaccines,including supporting manufacturers as they invest in processes tostabilize and increase their production capacity and improvingguidance about the approval process at the Food and DrugAdministration.
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