October flu shots are out and ready to go

Thursday, October 11, 2018

As the leaves turn and the weather changes, our thoughts turn to preparing for the winter. One of the best ways you can get your loved ones and yourself ready is to get your flu shot. All of our local health care providers have flu vaccine in stock and there will be a variety of community clinics offered throughout the month of October. We want to make getting your flu shot as easy as possible for you because flu shots really do save lives.

Last flu season (2017-18) resulted in 79 deaths in Montana due to complications from influenza; 979 people were hospitalized in our state. To date, we have already seen three confirmed cases in the past month. Now is the time to get your flu shot and make sure that your loved ones get their flu shots, too.

Routine annual influenza vaccinations are recommended for all persons from the age of six months and up. At highest risk for complications from influenza are the very young (six to 59 months old), the over 65 year-old-crowd, pregnant women, obese persons and Native Americans. Do you know anyone that falls into one of those groups? If so, consider getting a flu shot to protect them from infection. When you get your flu vaccine, you can keep yourself healthy and keep from spreading the flu to more vulnerable individuals.

This year’s flu vaccine has four components, two of which are a change from last year’s “recipe.” There is a High Dose influenza vaccine that is designed specifically for those 65 years and older; be sure to request this vaccine if you meet the age requirement. Flumist will again be available in limited quantities for those two years to 49 years old; however, this live-attenuated vaccine delivered by a squirt up the nose has not been proven to be as effective as the injection this year.

I often hear that someone got sick after receiving their flu shot and so they are no longer getting flu shots. According to extensive and ongoing research, the number of individuals who actually get sick (fever, muscle aches, fatigue) are relatively few; the flu shot cannot cause the flu. The more likely scenario is that the person who got sick after receiving their flu shot had been previously exposed to a virus that was circulating in the community, and that person was going to get sick whether or not they got a flu shot that day. This is the way our minds work: something happens and we look back to find a plausible cause. Since getting the flu shot is a memorable event for many, it becomes the assumed reason why that person got sick. Talk to your health care provider or public health nurse if you have concerns about the flu vaccine. We will be happy to answer your questions.

Also, if you or someone you know needs a flu shot but is homebound, call your public health nurse. And we offer “drive up shots” so you don’t have to get out of your vehicle if that is a problem. Our goal is to vaccinate everyone who is old enough against influenza and to reduce barriers to meeting that goal.

For questions and information, call Big Horn County Health Department at (406) 665-8720.