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Experts: No need to delay flu shots

Monday, Aug. 19, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
 

The traditional peak of flu season is more than six months off, but vaccinations already are available.

And health officials say there is no reason to wait: Get a flu shot now, they say.

“It will start helping the minute you get it, and it will protect you at least through the flu season,” said Dr. David A. Nace, chief medical officer for UPMC Senior Communities and a member of the National Influenza Vaccine Summit.

“There is no point in waiting,” he said. “And if you miss the chance to get it now, you may not get it in time.”

In Allegheny County, the first flu cases generally strike in mid- to late December, and then peak in March, health officials said. Last year, however, cases peaked early — during the first half of January — and largely disappeared by early March.

It takes two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to protect against the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vaccine manufacturers are producing and delivering doses earlier than in past years. Nace said the target delivery date used to be early September. The change to mid-August protects manufacturers from production problems and ensuing shortages, Nace said.

Pharmacies used to hold the vaccine until fall because of a “myth” that the shots would wear off if injected too early, he said.

“Nothing could be farther from truth,” Nace said. “The vaccine doesn't wear off in six months. It lasts at least the entire flu season. ... Get vaccinated the moment it becomes available in your area.”

Between 135 million and 139 million doses of vaccine will be produced for the upcoming flu season, according to the CDC.

Rite Aid Corp. officials announced last week that customers can get flu shots at pharmacies across the country. Vaccines are delivered through a traditional injection, or through a nasal spray, officials said.

Dr. Andrew Adams, a primary care physician at West Penn Hospital, urged everyone to take the flu seriously and get vaccinated. Infants as young as six months should be protected, he said, and parents of newborns should get the vaccine to ensure they don't pass the virus on to their babies.

“Influenza is not a cold; it's a life-threatening condition that in an average year kills 20,000 Americans,” Adams said.

Nace would not speculate on the severity or timing of the upcoming flu season.

“He who tries to predict the flu season is called a fool — I will not answer that one,” he said. “Every single flu season is a little different.”

Chris Togneri is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5632 or ctogneri@tribweb.com.

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