Influenza Vaccine Explained

Fluissue5stock photo
Flu season returns with a vengeance, and the FDA introduces a new vaccine.

By Jordan Utley-Thomson, Staff Writer

The first person to die from inf luenza in California was not only a Los Angeles County resident but also someone who lived in the San Fernando Valley, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. Flu season is here.

Influenza, also known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness. It is easily spreadable and can result in anything from mild discomfort, to hospitalization or death. Symptoms and signs of the flu include fever, chills, coughing, a sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, aches, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea.

Valley College has a Student Health Center at the North Gym, where students can receive a flu shot at a reduced cost. Services are scheduled through appointment and must be accompanied by a student ID and proof of current registration, showing payment of the student health fee.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges everyone 6 months of age and up to get the flu shot. Only people who experienced an allergic reaction to a previous influenza vaccination or are younger than 6 months should not be vaccinated.

For those who have an egg allergy, a new FDA-approved vaccine called Flublok is available and was approved Jan. 16. According to the CDC, Flublok does not use the influenza virus or chicken eggs in its manufacturing process. It also has a shorter shelf life of 16 weeks from the production date. The new vaccine is available for adults ages 18 to 49, and will be available for the 2013-2014 influenza season.

It takes about two weeks for immunization to take effect after the shot. Flu season peaks throughout winter and early spring, although shots are recommended as early as late summer and the beginning of fall.

While the flu does change every year, the composition of the vaccine does too, so an annual vaccination is still effective.

Vaccination is a safe way to combat the flu and does not contain the live virus. Side effects such as soreness and redness may occur, but the shot will not give a person influenza.

“This age group here on campus just feels like they’re immortal and are not going to get sick [and] people always have this myth that, if they get the flu vaccine, they’re going to get sick from [it],” said Student Health Center physician assistant Sonia Nodal. “When you do get your flu vaccine, you will not get the flu. You can’t. It’s an inactive form.”

However, not everyone agrees with the importance of the flu shot. The CDC reports that, for the 2011 to 2012 influenza season, the national coverage for adults 18 years and older was only 38.8 percent.

“I’m a pretty young and healthy guy, and [I] haven’t had the flu in forever,” said business major Sam Alon. “[A flu shot] is just not a priority right now in my life.”

According to the American Lung Association, at least 36,000 Americans die from the flu each year. Many of the afflicted are children, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses or delicate immune systems. These groups are considered high risk individuals.

The County of Los Angeles Public Health recommends a number of steps to take for flu prevention. These include frequent washing of hands, avoiding contact with the sick, covering the mouth after coughing or sneezing with a tissue or sleeve, staying home and avoiding people if sick, and getting an annual flu shot.

“The truth is, the more of us that get our flu vaccines, [the more it] allows [the] community to have less probability of getting the flu,” Nodal said. “You don’t have to be high risk to get it.”

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