Wellness Tips: Flu Shots

By Michelle Cohen

The beginning of flu season is HERE.  These words strike fear in the hearts of many law firm administrators.  Does the paralegal sniffling by the water cooler look a bit pale and unwell?  Is he sweating?  Did the receptionist touch that door handle after a surreptitious nose wipe?  Did half the staff call out sick this morning?  Why does this happen every year?  Don’t we always think to ourselves, Should I encourage everyone in the office to get a flu shot?  The answer is a resounding YES!  What follows is a synopsis of flu shot information adapted/shared from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

Getting an annual flu vaccine is the first and best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu.  It can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits and missed work due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations.  Over 80,000 people died last year of the flu or complications from the flu, making last year the deadliest flu season in four decades.  There were also a record breaking 900,000 flu-related hospitalizations last year.

The more people get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from the flu, including older people, very young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications.  (However, last year’s flu was high in severity across all age groups, not just the elderly, children and at-risk individuals.)  Getting the flu shot reduces the chance of having to seek medical care by 40%. 

New information for the 2018-2019 flu season
  • Flu vaccines have been updated to better match circulating viruses.  The B/Victoria component was changed and the influenza A(H3N2) component was updated.

  • The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) is again a recommended option for influenza vaccination of persons for whom it is otherwise appropriate.  The nasal spray is approved for use in non-pregnant individuals, two years through 49 years of age, though there is a precaution against the use of LAIV for people with certain underlying medical conditions.  All LAIV will be quadrivalent (four-component).

  • Most regular-dose egg-based flu shots will be quadrivalent.

  • All recombinant vaccine will be quadrivalent.  (No trivalent recombinant vaccine will be available this season.)

  • Cell-grown flu vaccine will be quadrivalent.  For this vaccine, the influenza A(H3N2) and both influenza B reference viruses will be cell-derived, and the influenza A(H1N1) will be egg-derived.  All these reference viruses will be grown in cells to produce the components of Flucelvax.

  • No intradermal flu vaccine will be available.

  • The age recommendation for Fluarix Quadrivalent was changed from three years old and older to six months old and older after the annual recommendations were published last season to be consistent with Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved labeling.

  • The age recommendation for Afluria Quadrivalent was changed from 18 years old and older to five years old and older after the annual recommendations were published last season to be consistent with Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved labeling.

What flu vaccines are recommended this season?
  • Standard dose flu shots.  These are given into the muscle.  They are usually given with a needle, but two (Afluria and Afluria Quadrivalent) can be given to some people (those aged 18 through 64 years) with a jet injector.

  • High-dose shots for older people.

  • Shots made with adjuvant for older people.

  • Shots made with virus grown in cell culture.

  • Shots made using a vaccine production technology (recombinant vaccine) that does not require the use of flu virus.

  • Live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV)—or the nasal spray vaccine—is also an option for use during the 2018-2019 season for persons whom it is otherwise appropriate.

Who should get vaccinated this season?

Everyone six months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season.  Vaccination to prevent influenza is particularly important for people who are at high risk of serious complications from influenza.

Who should not get a flu shot?

Talk to your doctor!  Chances are he or she will know what’s best for you.  There are lots of variables and choices.  Let your health professional assist you so the process is not any more stressful than it needs to be.

What are the risks from getting a flu shot?

You cannot get the flu from a flu shot.  The risk of a flu shot causing serious harm or death is extremely small; however, a vaccine, like any medicine, may rarely cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions.

Almost all people who get the influenza vaccine experience no serious problems.  Common side effects are soreness/redness or swelling at the injection point, low-grade fever and aches.

Can severe problems occur?

Reactions can occur among persons who are allergic to something that is in the vaccine, such as egg protein or other ingredients.  If they do occur, it is within a few minutes to a few hours after the shot. 

Can the flu shot give me the flu?

No, a flu shot cannot give you the flu.

Why do some people not feel well after getting the flu shot?

The flu shot can cause mild side effects that are sometimes mistaken for flu.

What about people who get a seasonal flu vaccine and still get sick with flu symptoms?

Chances are you were already exposed to the flu before you got the shot!

Add this item to your next office meeting!  The flu shot is usually covered by most insurance plans.  People don’t need to make an appointment and miss work, as most supermarkets, drug stores, etc. offer flu shots.  Best of luck, and may your law firm have a healthy, flu-free season!

Michelle Cohen is the Director of Human Resources and Office Manager of Schneck Law Group LLC in Livingston, New Jersey.

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