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National Influenza Vaccination Week is Here!

Family playing in the snowDecember 7-13th is National Influenza Vaccination Week. If you haven't gotten your flu vaccine yet, now's the time! An annual flu vaccine is the single best way to prevent this serious illness.

This season, National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) takes place from December 7-13th, 2014. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established NIVW in 2005 to highlight the importance of continuing flu vaccination through the holiday season and beyond. All around the country, NIVW events including press briefings, health fairs, flu vaccine promotion events, and educational opportunities will emphasize the importance of flu vaccination.

Vaccination is the best way to prevent the flu!

As long as flu viruses are spreading and causing illness, vaccination can still provide protection against the flu. Flu activity typically peaks between December and February in the United States, and the season can last as late as May. While there's still time to benefit from a flu vaccine, the sooner you get vaccinated, the more likely you are to be protected against the flu when activity picks up in your community.

Who Needs a Flu Vaccine?

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. A flu vaccine offers the best protection we have against this serious disease. Once vaccinated, it takes about 2 weeks for the body's immune response to fully kick in.

Graphic: Have you gotten your flu vaccine? Get vaccinated now! It's not too late! National Influenza Vaccination Week, December 7-13, 2014.

Have you gotten your flu vaccine? It's not too late! It's National Influenza Vaccination Week.

Are You at High Risk?

There are certain people who are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications that can lead to hospitalization or even death, including pneumonia and bronchitis are two examples of flu related complications. Those 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
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease)

If you are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications, you should get vaccinated. Those who live with you or those who care for people at high risk should also be vaccinated to protect them. A full list of people at high risk of serious complications from flu because of age or other medical conditions is available here.

In addition, there are other people for whom vaccination is especially important:

  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:
    • Health care workers
    • Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu
    • Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)

Some Children Need 2 Doses of Flu Vaccine

NIVW serves as a reminder to parents, guardians and caregivers of children not only about the importance of flu vaccination in general, but also of the fact that some children 6 months through 8 years of age require two doses of influenza vaccine to be fully protected. Children in this age group who are getting vaccinated for the first time will need two doses of vaccine, spaced at least 28 days apart. Some children who have received influenza vaccine previously will also need two doses. Your child's doctor or other health care professional can tell you if your child needs two doses.

The Flu Vaccine–You've Got Choices!

There are several flu vaccine options for the 2014-2015 flu season.

Traditional flu vaccines made to protect against three different flu viruses (called "trivalent" vaccines) are available. In addition, flu vaccines made to protect against four different flu viruses (called "quadrivalent" vaccines) also are available.

The trivalent flu vaccine protects against two influenza A viruses and an influenza B virus. The following trivalent flu vaccines are available:

  • Standard dose trivalent shots that are manufactured using virus grown in eggs. These are approved for people ages 6 months and older. There are different brands of this type of vaccine, and each is approved for different ages. However, there is a brand that is approved for children as young as 6 months old and up. Most flu shots are given with a needle. One flu vaccine can be given with a jet injector, for persons aged 18 through 64 years.
  • A standard dose trivalent shot containing virus grown in cell culture, which is approved for people 18 and older.
  • A standard dose trivalent shot that is egg-free, approved for people 18 and older.
  • A high-dose trivalent shot, approved for people 65 and older.
  • A standard dose intradermal trivalent shot, which is injected into the skin instead of the muscle and uses a much smaller needle than the regular flu shot, approved for people 18 through 64 years of age.

The quadrivalent flu vaccine protects against two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses. The following quadrivalent flu vaccines are available:

(*"Healthy" in this instance refers to children 2 years through 8 years old who do not have an underlying medical condition that predisposes them to influenza complications.)

CDC does not recommend one flu vaccine over the other, except for healthy children 2-8 years. If the nasal spray vaccine is not immediately available and the flu shot is, vaccination should not be delayed and a flu shot should be given. The important thing is to get a flu vaccine every year.

In addition to your doctor's office, there are various locations in your community where flu vaccine is available, like your pharmacy, grocery store or local health department. Use the HealthMap Vaccine Finder by entering your zip code to find flu vaccine locations near you.

If you're not sure or have questions about which vaccine to get, talk with your doctor or health care professional. For a complete list of who should and shouldn't get vaccinated, visit Who Should Get Vaccinated.

Over the years, hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu vaccines. Once vaccinated, you can enjoy this holiday season knowing that you have taken the single best step to protect yourself and your loved ones against the flu. Get your flu vaccine today!

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