National Influenza Vaccination Week is Dec. 2-8

 
Submitted by Amanda Dudek
Updated 11/29/2018 5:04 PM
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  • Flu shots are available at all Walgreens pharmacies during normal business hours with no appointment necessary.

    Flu shots are available at all Walgreens pharmacies during normal business hours with no appointment necessary. Courtesy of Walgreens

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last year's flu season was among the most severe in recent U.S. history. In the Chicago area, flu activity spiked in January, closing schools and impacting communities across the city and suburbs.

National Influenza Vaccination Week, observed annually Dec. 2-8, serves as a reminder that it is not too late to get the flu shot. While it's impossible to predict how severe this flu season will be, when influenza activity will spike, or what flu strains will trend, the flu shot remains the best protection against influenza.

As you prepare for flu season, here's what you need to know.

Symptoms and transmission:

The flu is a respiratory virus that easily spreads from person to person through physical contact. The virus can live on everyday surfaces such as doorknobs, phones, and toys and is transmitted by contact with your eyes, nose, and mouth. Remember, it is possible to carry -- and spread -- the flu virus before symptoms appear.

The most common flu symptoms are fever, cough, and sore throat. As the flu progresses, symptoms expand to include body aches, headache, chills, runny nose and fatigue. Because exposure to the flu virus may increase during the holiday season, as families travel and gather together, it's important to get the flu shot as soon as possible.

Research shows that individuals who get the flu vaccination are better protected against the virus. If, however, they come into contact with a strain that isn't covered by the immunization, their symptoms are likely to be less severe.

Flu shot:

An annual flu shot is recommended for everyone six months of age and older. Individuals should consult their doctor or pharmacist, who can answer questions and help determine an appropriate vaccination, which may include a quadrivalent vaccine, which protects against four strains of influenza, or a high-dose vaccine recommended for those over age of 65, among other options.

Before heading to get your flu shot, remember state, age, and health restrictions may apply when getting an immunization at a local pharmacy. In Illinois, for example, children 10 and under must have immunizations performed by their pediatricians.

Most insurance plans cover the cost of flu shots with a $0 copay for customers.

Misconceptions:

Every year, we field questions and address misconceptions about the flu shot in our pharmacy. The most common, perhaps, is the idea that the flu shot can give an individual the flu. In fact, the flu shot is not a live vaccine; therefore, it cannot transmit the virus. The most common side effect of the flu shot is tenderness at the injection site, which pales in comparison to the symptoms of influenza.

We also occasionally hear patients say they don't need a flu shot because they got one the previous year. This notion is inaccurate. The flu virus evolves every year, and an annual flu shot is necessary to protect against the most prevalent strands in any given season. Even if you had a flu shot at the end of last year's flu season, it is recommended that you get an immunization as soon as they become available.

It's important to note that the flu shot not only protects the individual recipient, but also those around them. Flu immunizations are critically important for protecting those whose immune systems are underdeveloped or easily compromised, such as infants and older individuals.

There's still time:

Although the CDC recommends flu shots as soon as they become available, and ideally before the end of October, it is not too late to get the flu vaccination. When planning your flu shot, remember that the vaccine can take up to two weeks to become fully effective, so it is important to get the flu shot as early as possible.

The CDC launched National Influenza Vaccination Week in 2005, choosing December as a reminder that there's still time to get the flu vaccine. For those who have already contracted the flu virus this season, the flu shot is still recommended as it may help prevent them from contracting a different strain of influenza.

Get a Shot. Give a Shot.:

Getting a flu shot at Walgreens can help make a difference for children all over the world. Through Walgreens "Get a Shot. Give a Shot." campaign, for every vaccine administered at a Walgreens pharmacy or Healthcare Clinic, Walgreens will donate the value of a lifesaving vaccine to a child in need in a developing country, as part of its partnership with the UN Foundation and its Shot@Life campaign.

Through the "Get a Shot. Give a Shot." campaign, Walgreens customers have helped provide 34 million lifesaving vaccines to children in developing countries.

Flu season is here, and there's still time to get your flu shot. Let National Influenza Vaccination Week serve as a reminder of the important role we all play in protecting ourselves and our friends, family and neighbors around us this year.

• Amanda Dudek is a pharmacy manager at Walgreens in Mount Prospect. Flu shots are available at all Walgreens pharmacies during pharmacy hours with no appointment needed. State, age, and health restrictions may apply.

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