Vaccinations urged as flu activity expected to increase
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Public health officials advise the flu season began on October 1, so if you haven’t already received your influenza vaccination, now is the time.
“Most of the time, it takes about two weeks to realize the full benefit of a vaccination,” Director of the City of Lubbock Public Health Department Katherine Wells said. “That’s why we really encourage people to get the flu shots prior to the height of flu season. As soon as we start getting lots of flu cases, you might get vaccinated, but you might get exposed prior to having that protection.”
Wells expects a spike in flu cases after Christmas, so she encourages vaccination to protect during the winter months.
“Young people that are healthy can be sick for up to a week,” Wells said. “There are complications with the flu like people developing pneumonia, needing to be hospitalized, and there are even deaths associated with flu. It’s something we need to be mindful of, especially if you’re at high risk, elderly, it’s even more important for you to get that flu vaccine.”
This year, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, the vaccine has “undergone substantial changes” to protect against various strains of the virus.
“Every year we see some kind of change in the formulation of the vaccines,” Wells said. “What they do is they watch what’s happening with flu in the southern hemisphere. Particularly, they look at Australia. They look at flu variants and what’s circulating, and then they base the development of the flu vaccines for the current year off of what they’ve seen in Australia, what they’ve seen in the past, and develop that flu vaccine for North America.”
Vaccines this year can protect against three to four strains, which are available to everyone six months and older. People aged 65 and older are urged to get a higher dose vaccine designed for those at higher risk.
“As we mature in age, our immune systems get a little bit weaker, a little bit slower,” Lead Immunization Nurse Ray Covarrubio said. “That’s just the natural process. Having a better vaccine with more efficacy would be better for them, especially 65 and older, and this cold weather coming up pretty soon.”
Covarrubio thinks of vaccines as risk management and encourages everyone to reduce the risk of suffering or dying from influenza.
“Even if you have a flu shot that only has a 30 or 40 percent efficacy rate, it is still a better chance than zero percent,” Covarrubio said. “For some people, if they catch the flu, we have anywhere from 6,000 to 10,000 adults each year in the U.S. dying from flu complications.”
As for claims that the flu shot causes the recipient to get the flu, Covarrubio said it’s most likely that the person was exposed to the virus before antibodies were formed.
“The flu shot is a dead virus,” Covarrubio said. “What we give is completely dead. It will not give you the flu. It will mimic the flu virus in that your body will send antigens and antibodies to that site. Then, that’s when you experience some soreness or redness. That’s a typical reaction.”
Wells said the Health Department is closely monitoring the spread of the virus in anticipation that this year will be worse than the previous mild flu seasons.
“Some of that’s being attributed to the different precautions around COVID, people wearing masks, people staying home when they’re sick, it probably helped stop the spread of flu,” Wells said. “Because it’s the same protective measures for flu and COVID, now that we don’t have those same measures in place, one of the concerns is whether or not we’re going to see an increase in flu cases. We’re going to be very carefully monitoring.”
Wells said most insurances will cover the cost of a flu shot at pharmacies and doctor’s offices since it is preventative care. If you seek them from the City of Lubbock Public Health Department, there will be a $20 fee; except for children in Medicaid, CHIP, or are uninsured.
To see where vaccines are available near you, visit Vaccines.gov.
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