Charles A. Bertrand, M.D., FACP, DIM-CD (Ret.)
Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at New York Medical College
and at the Medical University of South Carolina


FLU VACCINE.... IT'S ABOUT THAT TIME OF YEAR

The fall of the year — flu vaccine time, that is — but first, a good reference. The Johns Hopkins Bulletin Health After 50 of December 2005, is quite timely, since this is when flu occurs.

The vaccine is made up of parts of dead influenza vaccine, and therefore is incapable of producing the flu in the recipient... although some side effects may occur, just as from any other vaccine administered. These consist of a mild temperature elevation, fatigue, and muscle aches soon after receiving the injection. But this is not the flu.

Let's consider some common FAQ's. PRobably the most common question is "Should I take the shot?" The answer is yes, particularly if you are over the age of 65. The flu may lead to dangerous complications, such as pneumonia or heart failure and cause major problems especially in older people.

Does the shot always work? Well, not always. Health officials have to predict the strains of virus that are most likely to cause widespread illness, and sometimes the predications are off — the viruses do mutate and the strains for a given year change. Generally, however, the predictions are fairly accurate.

And what about the nasal vaccine? Should we try that? The answer is no — and for a number of reasons. The formulation called FluMist is different from the ordinary flu vaccine because it does contain a live, although attenuated virus. This contrasts with the usual vaccine, which has a killed virus. And so there's a risk of actually getting the flu. Also, it is approved for patients only from the ages 5 to 49. Additionally, it is more expensive.

And what is our final conclusion — should we take the shot? Yes — it is safe, effective, has relatively few side effects, and is not expensive. In fact, Medicare-part B covers it, so that there is no charge for individuals having this coverage. For those who have to pay, the charge varies from about $10 to as high as $25-30.

The advice provided on this website is intended to be general in nature and should not be relied upon for specific treatment. If you need personal medical attention please contact your physician.



Other of Dr. Bertrand's articles on the flu:
INFLUENZA VACCINATION AND REDUCTION FOR CARDIAC DISEASE AND STROKE AMONG THE ELDERLY
FLU VACCINE- 2000

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