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Flu Vaccination Key to Health and Safety

By Licking Memorial Health Systems

Flu Vaccination Key to Health and SafetyAnnual flu season typically spans from October to May, with a peak in flu activity occurring between December and February.  It is important to receive the vaccination as early as possible each year, as the body requires about two weeks following vaccination for the antibodies that provide protection against influenza to develop.  However, Licking Memorial Health Systems (LMHS) continues to urge community members to ensure that they receive a flu vaccination this winter and every flu season.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends annual immunization for those who want to reduce the risk of becoming ill with influenza or who may transmit the disease to others.  The vaccine is recommended for most individuals who are six months of age or older, including pregnant women and those with chronic health conditions.  Those who are allergic to eggs or have had a strong reaction to a previous flu vaccine may not be able to receive an immunization.

The vaccine is designed each year by the World Health Organization (WHO) to protect against four different flu viruses, including two strains of influenza B, as well as H1N1 and H3N2.  All three influenza vaccines are included in a single dose.  It is important to receive the vaccination each year as the vaccine is reformulated annually to provide protection against changing flu viruses.

Vaccination is particularly important for those interacting with children who are too young to receive the vaccination, as well as for healthcare employees and other professionals who have a heightened risk of coming into contact with the virus.  LMHS employees have recognized the value of receiving a flu vaccine in order to protect themselves and to limit the spread of infection to their patients, coworkers, and other members of the community.  Currently, 94% of the Health Systems’ 1,900 employees have received a flu shot during the 2015-2016 flu season, placing LMHS well above last year’s national average of about 81% vaccination among healthcare personnel.

“The flu vaccine is specially formulated to protect against the strains of influenza that are expected to arise each flu season.  There is no danger that the inactivated virus in the vaccine could cause someone to catch the flu.  It is important for individuals to be immunized each year, since the vaccine from the previous year may not offer protection against this year’s strains,” explained Craig Cairns, M.D., Vice President Medical Affairs.  “We anticipate that we will have a plentiful supply of vaccine for this flu season.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites several studies that have indicated the effectiveness of the flu vaccine.  Findings have included significant reductions in flu-related admissions to pediatric intensive care units among children, as well as significant reductions in flu-related hospitalization among adults, especially those who are 50 years of age or older.  Flu vaccination among pregnant women also has been highly effective in preventing flu-related hospitalization among infants, who are too young to receive the vaccination.  In addition, a flu vaccine may result in a milder illness for those who do get sick.

While anyone could become infected with influenza, certain groups are considered to have an increased risk and are especially encouraged to receive vaccinations, including:
• Those who are 50 years of age or older
• Pregnant women
• Those with chronic pulmonary, cardiovascular, renal, hepatic, cognitive, neurologic/neuromuscular, hematological, diabetes or metabolic disorders
• Those with immunosuppression
• Patients in nursing homes
• Healthcare personnel
• Caregivers for young children, older adults or patients with medical conditions

The ACIP’s recommendations for children include all youth who are six months or older.  Parents who would like to have their children immunized are advised to contact their pediatricians or family physicians.

Flu vaccines are safe and effective, and cannot cause the flu.  Please contact your primary care physician in order to schedule a flu shot as soon as possible.  You also may visit http://vaccine.healthmap.org for a complete listing of flu shot locations throughout Licking County.

Licking Memorial Health Systems