As Director of Pharmacy for Fort HealthCare, my goal is to stay one step ahead of the influenza virus in our community. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that people start getting vaccinated against influenza as early as the first of October to protect them for this season. Download the CDC’s Vaccine Information Statement for live, intranasal influenza.
Before you run off to your local Fort HealthCare clinic and get vaccinated, let me address three common misconceptions about the flu vaccine. Cue the boring medical facts!
Misconception #1: The influenza vaccine can cause autism in our children. The now debunked study that once created a correlation between the flu vaccine and autism has never been replicated or validated through any scientific means. This study was, single-handedly, the worst case of medical misinformation that our generation has witnessed. With 42 percent of reported influenza-related deaths occurring in children 5 years old and younger, I implore you to discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination for your children with your pediatrician.
Misconception #2: The influenza vaccine can protect against the stomach flu. Though these illnesses can seem linked, influenza and the stomach flu are two separate infections. Influenza is characterized by a cough, fever, body aches, and chills. The influenza virus is also most dangerous for people with breathing conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Misconception #3: The influenza vaccine can cause the flu. The flu vaccine is created from an inactivated (killed) form of the virus that does not allow the virus to replicate in the body. With that being said, the intranasal vaccine does carry a weakened (live) form of the virus. While rare, the intranasal vaccine has been known to cause limited, influenza-like symptoms in certain patients. Because of this, the intranasal vaccine is not recommended for everyone.
While I am not going to recommend the flu vaccine as the be-all and end-all of influenza prevention for those that may be opposed to it, I do think it is a great tool for prevention. Here at Fort HealthCare, we strive to get vaccinated to protect our patients. So I implore you to get vaccinated to protect those that you care about as well.
For more information, please visit the Immunization Action Coalition’s website.
-Carl Selvick, PharmD