Flu season is fast approaching, and Baylor faculty, staff and trainees all are encouraged to get vaccinated to protect themselves, their families and the community.
A Q&A with Dr. Pedro Piedra, professor of molecular virology and microbiology and of pediatrics, is provided below to address frequent questions about the influenza vaccine. In addition, the Baylor Flu Central website provides other important information and resources on flu. More information will be added to Flu Central throughout flu season, so check back frequently. And remember, Baylor leadership and staff have gotten their flu vaccines — now it’s time to get yours!
When is flu season?
In an average year, influenza activity begins in late November or early December, peaks in January or February and leaves around April or early May.
Who should be vaccinated?
In the United States, it’s recommended that everyone over the age of 6 months should be vaccinated.
Why should you be vaccinated?
The influenza virus can cause serious complications and even death. The virus can have serious complications in children, the elderly and those who are immunocompromised. Universal immunization is the best way to protect everybody against the flu. The more people who are protected, the less likely that an influenza season will be able to take hold or cause complications. Pregnant women will transfer antibodies from the vaccine through the placenta to their infant, and the baby will then be passively protected from the influenza virus during their first six months of life.
Who should get which vaccine?
- Healthy individuals 6 months of age or older can receive the flu shot
- Healthy individuals between the ages of 2 and 49 years of age can receive the nasal spray
- Individuals over the age of 65 should get the higher dose influenza vaccine, which contains four times the concentration of the regular influenza vaccine and produces a better immune response in this age group
- Pregnant women can receive the flu shot during any trimester. The nasal spray is NOT approved in pregnant women
- Anyone working in the healthcare environment should be protected against the flu to reduce the risk of spreading it to others who would be susceptible in a high-risk setting such as a hospital
Are there any exceptions as to who should be vaccinated?
- Those with a severe egg allergy should not receive an egg-based influenza vaccine, but should speak to their physician about receiving a cell-based influenza vaccine
- Individuals with Guillain-Barre Syndrome should speak with their physicians to weigh the risk versus the benefit of getting the influenza vaccine
When should you get the vaccine?
Don’t wait until the flu season is here to get vaccinated because it reduces the time that the vaccine can provide protection during the flu season. The vaccine takes about one to two weeks to give full protection against the virus.
What about kids?
Children should be vaccinated against the virus for their own protection and because it is known that school-aged children are likely to spread the infection to others in the community. Infants and children 8 years and younger who have never been previously vaccinated will need a second dose four weeks after the first dose.
What should I do if I think I have the flu?
Those experiencing flu-like symptoms should consult with their physician as soon as possible to get the appropriate medications to treat the infection.