Protect Yourself and Others, Get Vaccinated
By Shashank Sridhara // December 1, 2013
VACCINES CRITICAL FOR PEOPLE AT HIGH RISK FOR COMPLICATIONS
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA — It’s that time of year again when respiratory illnesses abound, and both the flu and pneumonia are responsible for increased doctors’ visits, missed work, hospitalizations and even deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highly recommends flu and pneumococcal vaccinations as first line preventive care.
The best way to protect against the flu this season is to get vaccinated. The flu vaccine is beneficial in reducing illness, antibiotic use, time lost from work, hospitalizations, and deaths. According to the CDC, the greatest benefit of the flu vaccine is that it reduces the need for medical treatment as a result of the influenza virus by 60% compared to patients that have not been vaccinated.
Get Vaccinated Early. Earlier immunizations are the most effective, but vaccination can be done as late as December, January, or beyond. A flu vaccine will only protect for one flu season, which usually peaks in the months of January and February, and can extend as far as May. After vaccination, it takes the body approximately two weeks to develop antibodies and protect against the influenza virus that causes the flu.
There are two types of influenza vaccines. An injectable dosage form which is an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) given with a needle and injected into the muscle. There also is a nasal-spray flu vaccine (sometimes called LAIV for Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine) that contains weakened forms of live viruses.
The influenza viruses in the seasonal flu vaccine are selected each year based on surveillance-based forecasts about what viruses are most likely to cause illness in the coming season. Therefore, each year’s seasonal flu vaccine is designed to protect against the influenza viruses expected to cause disease during the upcoming influenza season.
Flu vaccination are readily available through your physician and commercial pharmacies.
Vaccine Critical For Those At High Risk For Flu Complications. Vaccination to prevent the flu is particularly important for individuals who are at increased risk for severe complications from the flu. The following factors can put a person at an increased risk for developing flu complications:
• Aged 6 months through 4 years (59 months)
• Aged 50 years and older
• Chronic pulmonary (including asthma), cardiovascular (except hypertension), renal, hepatic, neurologic, hematologic, or metabolic disorders (including diabetes mellitus)
• Immunosuppression caused by medications or by human immunodeficiency virus
• Pregnancy during the influenza season
• Aged 6 months through 18 years and receiving long-term aspirin therapy and who therefore might be at risk for experiencing Reye syndrome after influenza virus infection
• Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities
• American Indians/Alaska Natives
• Morbid obesity (body-mass index is 40 or greater)
• Health-care personnel
• Household contacts and caregivers of children aged younger than 5 years and adults aged 50 years and older, with particular emphasis on vaccinating contacts of children aged younger than 6 months
• Household contacts and caregivers of persons with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for severe complications from influenza.
Vaccine Side Effects. Mild side effects that occur after receiving the vaccination can last one to two days, and include soreness, redness, and swelling at the injection site, fainting (mainly in adolescents), headache, fever, nausea, muscle ache, and vomiting.
Serious side effects appear within a few minutes to a few hours after receiving the vaccination, and include difficulty breathing, hoarseness, swelling around the eyes or lips, and hives. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of these severe reactions.
It is important to have a discussion with your healthcare provider prior to vaccination if you have a severe allergy to chicken eggs, history of a severe reaction to a flu vaccine, a history of Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS, a severe paralytic illness), or moderate to severe illness with fever. Generally, ill patients should wait to recover before vaccinating.
The pneumococcal vaccine can prevent pneumonia, a lung infection caused by pneumococcus bacterium. The vaccine stimulates the body’s immune system to produce antibodies against 23 of the 80 serotypes of pneumococcus bacterium. The two vaccine types are Prevnar 13 ® or PCV13 and Pneumovax ® or PPVSV23.
Pneumococcal Vaccine Candidates. For infants and young children PCV13 is recommended as a series of four doses, one dose at age 2 months, 4 months, 6 months and 12 through 15 months.
For adults one dose of PPSV23 is recommended for:
• All adults 65 years of age and older
• Anyone two through 64 years of age who has a long- term health problem such as: heart disease, lung disease, sickle cell disease diabetes alcoholism cirrhosis leaks of cerebrospinal fluid or cochlear implant
• Anyone two through 64 years of age who has a disease or condition that lowers the body’s resistance to infection, such as: Hodgkin’s disease, lymphoma or leukemia, kidney failure, multiple myeloma, nephrotic syndrome, HIV infection or AIDS, damaged spleen, or no spleen, organ transplant
• Anyone two through 64 years of age who is taking a drug or treatment that lowers the body’s resistance of infection, such as: long-term steroids, certain cancer drugs, radiation therapy
• Any adult 19 through 64 years of age who is a smoker or has asthma
Vaccine Side Effects. Side effects from pneumococcal vaccination are uncommon, but can include soreness or redness at the site of injection, fever, rash, and other allergic reactions. The influenza vaccine can be given before, after, or at the same time as the pneumococcal vaccine.
Anyone with a history of hypersensitive reactions to the vaccine is recommended to not receive the vaccine. The safety of the pneumococcal vaccine in pregnant women is not well studied and should therefore be discussed on an individual basis with a healthcare provider.
DO IT NOW
We’re already well into the “season,” so don’t hesitate–get vaccinated now.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shashank Sridhara completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Florida in 2010, and is currently in the final year of his curriculum as a Doctor of Pharmacy candidate at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy Class of 2014, for which he is completing clinical rotations at Holmes Regional Medical Center and Viera Hospital.