Published on November 06, 2015

Your Flu Shot Questions Answered

While the flu has yet to hit Story County as of this blog being published, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), it is starting to circulate around the state. Flu activity remains at a low level, but the fact that flu season has officially started should serve as a reminder to get your annual flu shot.

Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, medical director for the IDPH, says, “Based on CDC estimates, an average of 300,000 Iowans get the flu every year and together, flu and its complication of pneumonia causes an average of 1,000 deaths yearly in Iowa.”

With it only being a matter of time before the first case of flu hits Story County, we decided to get more information regarding the flu shot from Terri Olinger, a public health nurse with Mary Greeley Home Health Services.

Q: Can the flu shot give you the flu? If not, why do some people not feel well after getting the flu shot?
A: A flu shot cannot give you the flu. Flu shot vaccines are either made with an inactivated version of the virus and are therefore not infectious, or they are made with no vaccine viruses at all. People not feeling well after the shot is often caused by a person’s immune system making protective antibodies in response to being vaccinated. These antibodies are what allows the body to fight against the flu.

Q: There are a few different flu vaccines. What are the differences between them? Are there certain groups of people who should get one over the other?
A: When it comes to flu vaccines there are trivalent and quadrivalent vaccines. Trivalent vaccines protect against two influenza A viruses and one influenza B virus. As its name would suggest, a quadrivalent vaccine protects against four viruses – two influenza A and two influenza B. While the flu shot is recommended for everyone six months of age and above, there are certain groups who should consult their physician before getting one – especially those who may be allergic to eggs. For more information on flu shot recommendations visit the CDC’s website.

Q: Can pregnant women get a flu shot? Will it affect their unborn child?
A: Pregnant women can absolutely get a flu shot and in fact SHOULD get a flu shot. The flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women who are not pregnant due to their weakened immune system. A pregnant woman sick with the flu also has a greater chance that her unborn baby will suffer serious problems. The shot will not affect affect their unborn child – at least not in a negative way. If a woman is vaccinated during pregnancy, the baby is also born with some flu antibodies that will help protect them for up to 6 months after they are born. This is important because babies younger than 6 months can’t be vaccinated.

Q: I’ve gotten a flu shot before and still ended up with flu-like symptoms later in the season. Why?
A: There are several reasons why someone might still get flu-like symptoms. 1) It takes the body two weeks to gain protection after getting vaccinated, so a person exposed during that two-week period could still get the flu. 2) People may become ill with what they think is the flu because of the symptoms but is actually being caused by a non-flu virus, such as the common cold. 3) A person may be exposed to an influenza virus that is not included in the seasonal flu vaccine. Many different strains circulate each year, and the flu shot protects against the 3-4 viruses that research suggests will be the most common.

Q: If I haven’t gotten a shot by the time winter starts, is it even worth me getting one?
A: Yes. As long as flu viruses are spreading, it’s not too late. Flu season typically peaks between December and February, but activity can sometimes occur as late as May. The sooner you get a shot, the quicker your body can build up an immunity.

For more information, call Mary Greeley Home Health Services at 515-239-6730 or toll-free at 1-800-529-4610.

About the Author

Stephanie MarsauStephanie is the Marketing Communications Coordinator at Mary Greeley Medical Center. A blogger for several years, Stephanie's goal is to present health information in an entertaining, but helpful way.

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