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The 2014 flu shot: What’s new and why get it now

vaccine imageNow is a great time to roll up your sleeve because the flu vaccine takes two weeks to kick in, says Elizabeth Jones, M.D., a family physician at the University of Michigan Health System’s Livonia Health Center. Everyone 6 months of age and older is encouraged to get their yearly flu vaccine, ideally in the fall.

More must-know flu season information

Needle-free season for kids. New this year, the nasal spray vaccine has become the preferred flu vaccine for healthy children ages 2-8. Studies suggest it may work better than a flu shot in younger children. But don’t delay getting vaccinated to find the nasal spray vaccine, Jones says.

A boost for seniors. Adults age 65 and older, there’s an alternative for you: a high-dose vaccine that new research shows is 24 percent more effective at preventing flu. As we age our immune system is less robust.Fluzone High-Dose has four times the amount of antigen (an agent that stimulates the immune system) found in other flu shots.

Easing egg allergy restrictions

If you only get hives after exposure to egg, you can get the flu shot. But plan ahead. This year’s federal guidelines recommend 30 minutes of observation after vaccination. For those with more severe egg allergies, talk to your health care provider.

Protection against heart attacks? A flu shot greatly reduces the risk of being hospitalized or dying from flu complications, plus research shows flu vaccine may lessen the risk of heart attack. If you have heart disease, such as heart failure, high blood pressure, a congenital heart defect or irregular heartbeat, or have had a stroke, you need to take steps to fight the flu, says U-M cardiologist Scott Hummel, M.D. Ask about the pneumonia vaccine too, he says.

No, the vaccine doesn’t make you sick! All flu vaccines that are administered with a needle are made with ‘inactivated’ virus and are therefore not infectious, and some vaccines are made with no viruses at all. The nasal spray flu vaccine does contain a small amount of live viruses. However, the viruses are weakened and completely safe for those with normal immune systems.

Where can I get a flu shot?

  • University of Michigan patients can get a flu shot during new or already scheduled appointments, or at special walk-in clinics. See the list of walk-in clinics at www.uofmhealth.org/flu
  • No matter where you are, you can find a flu shot location using the Flu Finder on flu.gov

Take the next steps

  • If you have asthma, diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDS, heart disease, or certain other chronic medical conditions, you’re at high risk for flu complications. Get vaccinated.
  • Fight the spread of flu everyday by washing your hands often, covering your cough and staying home if you’re sick.
  • Visit flu.gov to learn more about the flu and vaccination

HS_180x180For more than 160 years, the University of Michigan Health System has been a national leader in advanced patient care, innovative research to improve human health and comprehensive education of physicians and medical scientists. The three U-M hospitals have been recognized numerous times for excellence in patient care, including national rankings in many specialty areas by U.S. News & World Report.