Tonawanda News


November 9, 2011

Flu shot 101

It’s that time of year again. Yes, influenza season is upon us and for some people that might mean it’s time to consider getting vaccinated against the disease the Center for Disease Control estimates kills anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000 individuals each year.

The CDC says it’s difficult to estimate the number of flu-related deaths because many times influenza aggravates an existing condition and death certificates will often list that as the cause of death.

Dr. Jeffrey Frost, infection prevention and control medical advisor for the Catholic Health System, acknowledges that some people might have anxiety about getting vaccinated, but said everyone should get the flu shot to avoid getting sick. Frost’s recommendations, along with some guidelines put forth by the CDC, might be able to help you decide if getting the vaccine is right for you and your family.

Who should get vaccinated

As of February 2010, the CDC recommends everyone six months old and older get the vaccine each year. There are some people who are more at risk to suffer from complications of the flu: pregnant women, children younger than 5 years old, people more than 50 years old, people of any age with chronic medical conditions, people who live in long-term care facilities and those who care for persons at high risk. These people especially should get vaccinated against the virus, the CDC says.

Some people, however, should consult their physician before getting the shot: people allergic to chicken eggs, people who have previously had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccine, children younger than 6 months old, people who are already ill with a fever and people with a history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome.

What kind of vaccinations are available?

The CDC has approved three different flu shots and one nasal-spray vaccine. The most widely available, according to Frost, is the standard flu shot, which is injected into the muscle. A high-dose intramuscular version is available, recommended for people 65 and older who have weaker immune defenses.

An intradermal shot has been approved for the first time this flu season. This shot, which is injected just under the skin, utilizes a smaller needle and requires fewer antigens to be effective. This method is recommended for people ages 18 to 64.

The live attenuated influenza vaccine can be administered to healthy people between the ages of 2 and 50 through a spray inhaled through the nose. Unlike the shot, this vaccine contains weakened live strains of the virus which, when administered, cause the patient to develop antibodies.

Will getting the vaccination give me the flu?

“I tell people that they’re not going to get the flu from the vaccine because when they get the intramuscular shot they’re not being injected with the virus,” Frost said.

These people are only being injected with flu antibodies and therefore are not actually infected with the disease as many people  believe.

The nasal spray vaccine does contain live strains of the virus, however they are weakened and cannot cause illness, the CDC says.

According to the CDC, the side effects for the shot versions of the flu vaccine include soreness, redness or swelling at injection site, low-grade fever and aches.

“In my experience, the only complaints I’ve ever gotten are arm soreness that maybe last a day or two,” Frost said.

The nasal spray can cause runny nose, headache, sore throat and cough in adults, and runny nose, wheezing, headache, vomiting, muscle aches and fever in children.

Do I need to get a separate vaccine to cover H1N1 (swine flu)?

Frost says the H1N1 virus is covered by the 2011-12 vaccine, though he stresses this particular strain of the flu is not as much of a concern this year as it was the previous two. Each year, the flu vaccine protects against the three strains of the virus scientists predict are most likely to infect people in the coming flu season.

That said, the CDC says it is possible for those vaccinated to still get the flu if exposed to a different strain — that’s how the H1N1 pandemic got started in April 2009.

Is the vaccine safe for children/is there a risk of autism?

There have been allegations that the preservative thimerosal used in vaccines causes autism in children. CDC studies show there is no link between the mercury-based preservative and instances of autism in children. Since 2001, though, new vaccines approved for use in children contain little or no thimerosal except for multi-dose flu vaccines.

Thimerosal is used in vials containing more than one dose of vaccine to prevent the growth of germs, bacteria and fungi that could contaminate the vaccine when a syringe needle enters the vial. The Food and Drug Administration has approved single-dose vials that do not contain thimerosal because they are meant to be used only once.

Where can I get the flu vaccine?

Many pharmacies now provide the flu shot for about $25 out of pocket. They typically carry the regular flu shot, the preservative-free flu shot and in some cases the high-dose shot. Flu shot clinics may be available in the area as well, but be sure to call in advance to check for availability if you want something other than the standard vaccine.

Of course, check with your doctor for availability of all vaccine types and if you have any concerns about whether you should get the vaccine.

Frost says there is “plenty of vaccine to go around,” so there are no restrictions on who can and cannot get the vaccine as in previous years.

Text Only
  • SUN LIFE Open gardens 1 072014.jpg Stop and smell the flowers

    More than 90 private gardens throughout Western New York, and a number of public ones, are open to the public for select hours Thursdays and/or Fridays during July as part of the National Garden Festival’s Open Gardens program, now in its fifth year. The program is separate and distinct from local garden walks, and the gardens range from Gasport to Holland. They’re organized into districts of about five to eight gardens each, including Northtowns West (which includes gardens in Kenmore and the Town of Tonawanda) and Niagara Trail (which includes gardens in Lockport, Gasport and Lewiston).

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFE terrariums 1 072014.jpg For the love of nature

    Sara Johnson lives surrounded by green and growing things. Showing a visitor around her apartment in North Buffalo, she pointed out the plants in every room, the balcony and even in two small greenhouses — houseplants, flowers, vegetables, even carnivorous plants.

    "I try to keep as much growing in the house as I can," she said.

    Another goal of hers is to show others how to do the same — and to that end, Johnson is offering a series of workshops this summer in connection with her business, Sylvatica Terrariums, and Project 308 Gallery in North Tonawanda, teaching people how to bring a piece of the outdoors into their homes in the form of a terrarium or other greenery.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFE fresh air 1 072014.JPG Getting some fresh air

    As an effort to get children out of the big city and give them a chance to spend part of their summer playing outside, the Fresh Air Fund brings New York City kids to stay with host families for a 10-day trip to a place which is vastly different from their usually surroundings.

    “They will be running outside and playing in the grass and going swimming,” said Cheryl Flick, a fund representative of the Northern Erie and Niagara Counties chapter of the Fresh Air Fund at a picnic for the host families and kids. “They won’t be cooped up inside, they’ll be outside, getting fresh air and being active.”

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • sig - SUN LIFE double trouble 2014.jpg Still waiting for that letter from Hogwarts

    I think it’s true of many parents, that amidst the many challenges and hard work of parenting, we anticipate the day our children grow up just enough ... to like the same things we like, whether it’s as an ongoing phenomenon or a fond childhood memory.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • sig - critter companions RGB Calling all the basic locavores!

    Did you know that the suffix “vore” comes from the Latin word “voro,” which means to devour? I probably knew that once, but I should have paid better attention in my Latin class. “Vore” is used to form nouns indicating what kind of a diet an animal has, such as omnivore, carnivore and herbivore.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFE NT tours 071314.jpg A closer look at NT

    When Explore Buffalo Tours got started about eight months ago, the business concentrated on specialized tours designed to showcase specific aspects of the City of Buffalo’s history, architecture and culture.

    Now the organization is looking to the future and trying out ways to highlight the other unique aspects of the Western New York region. The tours change out each month, but the more popular ones will circulate back in, according to Explore Buffalo Executive Director Brad Hahn. This month it’s test-driving its “North Tonawanda: Lumber City” tour, one of only a few to take place outside the City of Buffalo. (Although a Lockport tour is in the works.)

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFEe exercise 2 071314.jpg Fitness in the sun

     Following a trend of public, outdoor exercise programs, a number of local venues are offering their own free events aiming to get residents outside and active during the summer.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFE muscoreils 1 071314.jpg Beyond the bakery

    For years, Muscoreil’s Fine Desserts & Gourmet Cakes has been a go-to location for desserts and wedding and occasion cakes in Western New York.

    This summer, even as the bakery deals with the rush of wedding season, changes at its associated bistro aim to create a revitalized focus on that side of the business, as well.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • sig - Crib Notes 2014 RGB.jpg Figuring out the birthday-party rules

    The options when you escort your child to a birthday party are endless, really. Everywhere you turn, there’s another thrill to uncover.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • sig - critter companions RGB The tail of two books

    As promised, here are some more new summer reads that are all about our critter companions. Both books were released mid-June, and although they are quite different from one another, both would be valuable assets for your in-house library.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo