Protect Yourself Before Flu Season Starts

Everyone is encouraged to get a flu shot. Early outbreaks, the deaths of children, and manufacturing errors were all to blame for the chaos of past flu seasons. Since then, mistakes have been corrected.

There is a slight delay in the shipment of flu vaccine for young children, but the makers of Fluzone say it will be out before the height of the season.

As for the adult vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has projected 110 to 115 million will be available. And because there doesn't appear to be a shortage, they're not reserving them for the most at-risk patients.

This year, there will be no long lines, weaving around the freezer section of the grocery store. The visiting Nurse Association is holding its clinics at its offices and other comparable venues around the Tri-State.

There will be fewer clinics, but they'll be longer in duration. Now, they just have to convince everyone not to rush out to the first ones.

John Welcher, with the Visiting Nurse Association, explains, "We have to take a little bit of the blame because we condition people, you know, 'you need to get your flu shot.' So everyone wants to get it. So when we start talking about it, everyone comes down and gets the flu shot, but really, the ideal time to get a flu shot, really the ideal day is Halloween."

It will take two weeks for immunity to build up in your system. So even if you wait until mid-November, you'll be protected when flu cases really pick up in January and linger until March.

And VNA nurses say the fear of having a reaction from the vaccine shouldn't keep you away.

VNA staff nurse Shirley Gubler assures, "There is no live vaccine in it. So, therefore, you could not get sick from it. Years ago, they did use a live vaccine, or a weakened vaccine, and some people would react to that, and they would get flu symptoms after taking the flu shot."

What else has changed is the sheer volume of flu shots available. The CDC projects having 17 million more doses than in years past and doesn't want them to go to waste.

"Healthy people over 50, especially healthy people under 50, go ahead and go out and get that shot because at least as low as 5 percent and up to 20 percent of the population every year gets the flu," says Welcher.

The VNA has access to 13,000 doses. They're now offered to all pregnant women, not just those in their early trimesters. Also, the VNA clinics used to be open to adults 18 or older. Now, they're vaccinating kids as young as nine.

The price of the vaccination hasn't gone up. They're still $22 and are covered by Medicare Part B.