Health experts: Now is time to get flu shot

ALPENA — Health experts in Michigan are telling residents to roll up their sleeves and get ready for flu shots ahead of flu season.

Family Nurse Practitioner Rhonda Keller of Healthwise Medical Clinic in Alpena said those seeking the immunization should get it soon.

“The earlier you get it the better and it should protect you through March,” she said.

Angela Minicuci, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said there is a lot of science about how the vaccination helps people during flu season. She said a lot of information can be found on www.ivaccinate.org as well as from the Centers for Disease Control at www.CDC.gov, where people can read about the benefits of vaccinations like the flu shot.

Minicuci said there is a lot of misinformation about the flu shot. She said one thing that is confusing about the shot is that with most vaccinations a person will only get one shot and a booster.

“The flu vaccine is unique because the flu strains change every single year, so we need an updated flu vaccine to protect against the strains,” Minicuci said. “One of the things about the virus is it’s constantly evolving and changing.”

She said an example of this was during 2009 when the H1N1 flu strain was out and doctors had not developed a vaccination against it.

“In the years since then we have developed a vaccine (for H1N1) and it’s regularly included in a lot of the flu vaccines,” she said. “Because the flu is always changing scientists put together their best estimate on the flu shot. Typically it is the three most common strains, and every once in a while they might throw in a fourth.”

Minicuci said although visiting a family doctor for the shot is a good health screening measure, she said getting one at a local pharmacy or the health department is just as good because it is all the same vaccine. She said there are at-risk populations that should get the shot.

“We recommend everyone over the age of six months and older get the flu shot. There are populations that we are most concerned about, there are those who are young, the elderly they have weaker immune systems or anyone who may have a compromised immune system,” he said.

She said other candidates include those who work with someone who may have a compromised immune system, someone who works with children, or even comes in contact with those aforementioned groups.

Minicuci said it is a common myth that a person can contract the flu from getting the vaccine. She said that is simply not true.

“There are two reasons, it’s virus that has considered inactive and it’s not capable of being infectious. You can’t actually get sick from it. With other strains (of the shot) it may not have the virus in it at all, it will just give you the necessary ingredients (to protect your body),” she said.

Things that are common with the shot, she said, are tenderness or soreness in the shot location for a few days, as well as fever and headache.

She said the shot is not 100 percent effective against the flu, but if a person does get it it will be a milder case. She said, however, there are many flu-related deaths in the country during the season and there already has been one recorded death in Michigan.

Minicuci said even people consider themselves healthy and think they cannot get sick should get a vaccination.

“We do see healthy adults get the flu and it can be fatal,” she said. “They have gotten the flu and within days they passed away. It can be very severe very fast. It’s not worth the risk to not get the shot.”

Jason Ogden can be reached via email at jogden@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Jason on Twitter @jo_alpenanews.