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3 things to know about this year’s flu vaccine

Get the facts about the 2017-2018 flu season.

By Tasha Gastony, PA-C
November 15, 2017

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Each year, a new flu vaccine comes out. And, each year, I take time to remind my patients just how important it is to get vaccinated. Did you know the flu vaccine kept 5 million people from getting the flu during the 2015-2016 season?

This year, we’re making sure people in Minnesota and Wisconsin know that flu shots are important for pregnant women. And, we’re working to remind people how flu shots work.

Here are my answers to 3 questions I know people will be asking this 2017-2018 flu season:

1. Is the flu shot worth it?

Absolutely. The flu vaccine protects you and those around you from about half of all flu viruses. It doesn’t protect you from every strain (unique type) of the flu. That’s why a small number of people who get the flu shot still get the flu. But that certainly doesn’t make getting the shot not worth it. It just means the shot won’t make you invincible from everything out there this year.

Vaccines are also rigorously tested to make sure they’re safe. A lot of research and testing goes into keeping you – and especially people with vulnerable immune systems – safe each flu season!

2. I don’t like needles. Why is it so hard to find the nasal mist this year?

In 2016, the government agency that oversees flu safety recommendations stopped recommending the nasal mist. This agency – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – no longer recommends using FluMist nasal flu vaccine. Data has shown that FluMist is not as effective as the flu shot. So, my clinic and other HealthPartners and Park Nicollet clinics won’t offer it this year.

3. What are flu vaccine recommendations by age?

  • 6 months and older: The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine.
  • 6 months to 8 years: Children getting vaccinated for the first time need two doses of the vaccine this season. And, children who have only gotten one dose of vaccine in the past also need two doses of vaccine.
  • 8 to 65 years: Get a flu shot before the end of October, if possible.
  • 65 years and older: Get a high-dose flu shot for the best protection.
  • Egg allergies: A special shot is available that’s made from a virus grown in a cell culture.

Have more questions? Check out HealthPartners’ answers to frequently asked questions about the flu and flu vaccine. The CDC website is also a great resource.

Ready to get a flu shot?

Avoid the flu and missed work or school for $35 or less. Preventive care like the flu shot is often covered by insurance at 100 percent. So be sure to check. Your shot could be free!

About Tasha Gastony, PA-C

Tasha Gastony has worked in Family Medicine at Park Nicollet for more than 20 years, and currently provides care over the phone, through video chat and in person at the SmartCare Clinic. She has a particular interest in working with patients with depression and anxiety. Since mental health and physical health are intertwined, Tasha believes we will all have a better overall sense of well-being if we can manage both. Outside of work, she enjoys traveling, reading and spending time with her family – especially at her children’s horse shows and soccer games.

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