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Hoey: It’s not too late to flu vaccinate — here’s how in Cayuga County

November 29, 2016 GMT

This fall, when you see signs reading “get your flu vaccine,” you might ask: “Isn’t it too late to get vaccinated?” No, it’s not too late! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Cayuga County Health Department recommend that flu vaccination efforts continue throughout the flu season. It’s true that the sooner you get vaccinated, the more likely you are to be protected against the flu when activity picks up in your community. But vaccination into December and beyond can still be beneficial during most flu seasons.

If you traveled for Thanksgiving and plan to be out and about shopping and spending time with friends and family over the next month, make sure you get vaccinated! It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against influenza virus infection to develop in the body, so it’s best to get vaccinated early. Flu season most often peaks between December and March, but activity can occur as late as May.

For millions of people every season, the flu means a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, fatigue and miserable days spent in bed. Millions of people get sick, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, and thousands to tens of thousands of people die from flu each year.

There is a vaccine that can help prevent flu. While the vaccine varies in how well it works, there are many studies that show that flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctor visits and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. CDC estimates that last season, flu vaccine prevented 5.1 million cases of flu, 2.5 million flu-related medical visits and 71,000 flu-associated hospitalizations. However, only about half of the people in the United States reported getting a flu vaccine last season, leaving millions of people unprotected. If just 5 percent more of the population had gotten vaccinated last season, an additional 504,000 illnesses, 233,000 doctor’s visits and 6,000 hospitalizations would have been prevented.

CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against seasonal flu viruses. This season, CDC recommends the use of injectable flu vaccines (flu shots) and not the nasal spray flu vaccine. The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine, or LAIV) is not recommended for use this season because of concerns about effectiveness. Getting the flu vaccine is simple, and it’s the most important thing you can do to protect yourself and your family from the flu.

The 2016-2017 U.S. flu vaccines have been updated for this season. For more information, visit cdc.gov/flu.

Some people are at high risk for serious flu-related complications that can lead to hospitalization and even death. People at high risk include pregnant women, children younger than 5 but especially children younger than 2 years old, people 65 years of age and older, and people who have certain medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease. For those at high risk of serious flu complications, getting a flu vaccine is especially important. It’s also important to get the vaccine if you care for anyone at high risk, including children younger than 6 months who are too young to get a flu vaccine.

Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, including doctor’s offices, health departments, pharmacies, health centers and travel clinics, as well as by many employers and schools. If you are in need of a flu shot, call the Cayuga County Health Department at (315) 253-1560 for an appointment or visit cayugacounty.us/immunization.