Tag Archives: flu season

Certain flu vaccines are not recommended for all ages


It is time for your 2013-2014 flu vaccine.  However, do take your doctor’s advice before vaccination. Certain flu vaccines are not recommended for all ages. For example, CDC recommends that one brand of inactivated flu vaccine called Affluria, should not be given to children 8 years of age or younger. A related vaccine was related with fever and fever – related seizures in young children in Australia. More about side effects below.  Young children who get inactivated flu vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine (PCV13) at the same time may be at increased risk for seizures caused by fever. Ask your doctor for more information. Tell your doctor if a child who is getting flu vaccine has ever had a seizure. You may also read “Why am I feeling fatigued after taking the flu vaccine?

Avoid Pain Reliever with Flu Vaccine
Although your first reaction would be to take a fever or pain reliever along with the flu vaccine – you may want to avoid this action. Common pain relievers dilute the effect of the vaccine. Click here to read the views of the University of Rocherster Medical Center. Quote

“What we’ve been saying all along, and continue to stress, is that it’s probably not a good idea to take common, over-the-counter pain relievers for minor discomfort associated with vaccination,” Phipps said. “We have studied this question using virus particles, live virus, and different kinds of pain relievers, in human blood samples and in mice — and all of our research shows that pain relievers interfere with the effect of the vaccine.”

Unquote.

Egg and/or latex allergy?
What if you have an egg and/or latex allergy? Consult your doctor. The answer is in this previous article.  However, there is a major update for individuals with egg allergy waiting to be vaccinated – Flublok.  In 2013, FDA has approved Flublok, for 18-49 year old, which is not developed in eggs but in insects. Hence, Flublok may be suitable for adults (but not children, teens and seniors) with egg and/or latex allergy.  Traditionally, the flu vaccine has been developed in eggs.  To learn more you may read a previous article, “Tracking the history of the development of the flu vaccine”, by clicking here.  The ability to develop the flu vaccine in insects instead of eggs is heralded as a boon to egg allergic individuals.  However, since it has been newly introduced in 2013, it remains to be clinically tested in individuals other than adults and hence, is not yet FDA approved in children, teens and seniors, since their immune system is different than a typical healthy adult.

A Flu Virus

A Flu Virus

Please, discuss with your doctor.  It is highly recommended to take the flu vaccine to avoid hospitalization and other secondary complications from a flu infection.  It is highly contagious.  Certain age groups are more susceptible than others.  The Centers of Disease Control of USA reports a total of 12,343 hospitalizations that occurred from October 1, 2012 through April 30, 2013, which translates to a cumulative rate of 44.3 influenza-associated hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the United States. The total number of influenza-associated pediatric deaths reported to CDC for 2012-2013 was 146 in USA. While the vast majority of the tested virus samples (>99%) showed susceptibility to the antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir, some varieties showed resistance. Watch an animated video of how the flu virus enters, and multiplies inside the human body.

Why do I feel fatigued after my flu vaccine?
The vaccine composition is changed every year. The WHO meets twice a year to discuss the varieties of flu strains causing flu infections and hopes to include the most “popular” strains in the flu vaccine composition (see below for for the 2013-2014 composition). However, the vaccine can accomodate a maximum of three to four flu strains. There might be a new flu strain that emerges later in the year. There might be a fifth or sixth flu strain also causing infections. The flu vaccine assists an individual in easing the “suffering from symptom” period. Therefore, a person who has the vaccine can still get the flu from a flu strain not included in the vaccine but the symptoms will be weaker. This is because the flu strains differ from each other very slightly and most of their characteristic proteins are included in the vaccine, hence “teaching” the body’s immune system to be ready to fight the flu infection.

There can be a slight fever and other side effects (see below) after the flu vaccine.  The symptoms would start right away and last 2 to 3 days. This might happen if the flu vaccine composition includes one or more flu strains that were not included in the previous year’s vaccine composition. If the individual has never been exposed to 1 or more of the flu strains in the vaccine, the immune system might react with symptoms like the flu. It is the immune system getting ready. The individual does not get flu from the inactivated flu vaccine and the live flu vaccine is too weakened to cause the flu. You may also read “Why am I feeling fatigued after taking the flu vaccine?

Related Articles:
The compostion of the 2013 – 2014 trivalent and quadrivalent flu vaccine for the Northern Hemisphere
Tracking the seasonal flu, The History of the Flu Vaccine and The Flu Vaccine of 2011

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Should my baby get the flu vaccine?


The CDC says that infants younger than 6 months cannot get the flu vaccine. In this case, the role of the caregiver is important and hence, they must remain healthy and may wish to follow the CDC recommendations on precautions and advie for caregivers of children younger than 2 years old below. An excerpt:
Children Younger Than 6 Months at Higher Risk

Children younger than 6 months are at higher risk of serious flu complications, but are too young to get a flu vaccine. Because children younger than 6 months cannot get a vaccine, but are at high risk for serious flu-related complications, safeguarding them from influenza is especially important. This fact sheet provides advice to help caregivers (for example, parents, teachers, babysitters, nannies) protect children younger than 6 months from the flu.

Unquote.

For information on Egg free vaccines you may wish to click here.

CDC advice for caregivers of children below 2 years of age:
1. Take time to get the flu vaccine
2. Take everyday preventive steps – washing your hands often, covering mouth, keep baby 6 feet away from sick people, keep hands (and germs) away from face
3. Talk to doctor about antiviral drugs: which are most effective in first two days of illness

The CDC advises ensuring the infants cold or flu does not progress into pneumonia. Actively seek out advice on how to prevent flu from progressing into pneumonia.

Here is a study by pediatricians that shows that most babies begin to get sick with flu after they are 6 months old.  The mother’s ability to fight the flu virus is transmitted to the child while pregnant and does offer the new born to six month child a healthier start to life. However, a third of the new borns under six months did get the flu in this study. The Centers of Disease Control of USA (CDC) recommends that all infants above 6 months be vaccinated annually against the flu. You may click here to read the CDC recommendation on December 2012.

You may want to discuss with your pediatrician if your child is more than six months old. Maternal immunity transferred to the infant may postpone the need to immunize the infant. However, since two – thirds of the infants over 6 months in this 1997 study did get the flu, the discussion with the pediatrician becomes important. Also, the infant is getting a number of other immunizations and the expert discussion will allow you to avoid an unnecessary vaccine.

If the flu season is particularly harsh like in early 2013, then it might be advisable to not delay the discussion on immunizing your child over 6 months of age. The CDC does not recommend getting a child under 6 months getting the flu vaccine.

To read the scientific research article entitled “Influenza virus infections in infants” published in the Pediatric Infection Disease Journal click you may want to click here. It was published in 1997 but the results still apply.

The authors of this study are:
GLEZEN, W. PAUL MD; TABER, LARRY H. MD; FRANK, ARTHUR L. MD*; GRUBER, WILLIAM C. MD†; PIEDRA, PEDRO A. MD

Prevent the fluids from collecting in the ear and causing a ear infection.

Related Article
History of the flu vaccine
Egg free vaccine

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Should I get the flu vaccine this year?


Although, the 2011-2012 combination in the flu vaccine, is the same as the 2010-2011, an effective way you can protect yourself against a flu virus infection is through vaccination.

The Flu Virus

However, current vaccination approaches rely on achieving a good match between circulating flu virus strains and the isolates included in the vaccine formulation.  The recommendation is made by the World Health Organization  collaborating centers. Such a match is often difficult due to a combination of factors, one being that the recommendations are made six months prior to the initiation of the flu season, and the flu viruses are constantly undergoing change.

What if the formulation of the vaccine this year is the same as the previous year? The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advice that for optimal protection it is safest to get vaccinated against the flu every year. The CDC recommends all people above six months get vaccinated annually; especially the young and the elderly and gives information specific to the 2011-2012 season, including the vaccine formulation, which is exactly the same as the 2010-2011 combination, but is different from the 2009-2010 and earlier combinations. Some non-vaccinated people got quite ill and weak for a very long time in the fall of 2009 from what could have been the H1N1 flu. The vaccinated people apparently were protected or only had mild flu-like symptoms and lost little productive time.

Get vaccinated annually: A Boston.com article by a Globe staff, Deborah Kotz, gives a simple explanation why one needs to get immunized annually in spite of the same combination of strains in the vaccine. If you are naturally infected by the flu virus, your body can retain that immune memory for a life-time. On the other hand, when you are vaccinated by the same flu virus, your body’s immune memory becomes weaker over time, and we do not know currently whether you will have an appropriate immune response if infected next year.

According the CDC, certain people should get advice on whether they should get vaccinated; especially those with egg allergy or latex allergy.

If you have an egg allergy:

A Scientist Cultivating the Flu vaccine in Live Eggs - A labor intensive effort

When you have to make a decision about getting a flu vaccine, which is the vaccine currently grown only in egg in most countries, then you should seriously consider medical supervision because you may have options. They are rather limited in the USA versus Europe and I have detailed current strategies in a previous article on flu vaccination and egg allergy.  The options in Europe are quite different from those currently available in the USA. You may also read “Next generation of flu vaccines coming of age: Cell – based technology may replace egg – based flu vaccines“, by Teddi Dineley Johnson.

What is the combination in the 2011-2012 flu Vaccine? There is an international effort to create that single, life-time flu vaccine, but until then the vaccine combination will need to be reassessed every year. The 2011-2012 combination in the flu vaccine, which is the same as the 2010-2011,  is:

A/Cal/7/2009 (H1N1) – like

A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2) – like

B/Brisbane/60/2008 – like antigens

If you have a latex allergy: There is both the traditional injection version and a new, intradermal version vaccine available this year.  If you have a latex allergy you may want to take advice and choose a latex free version. The package insert says that the dermal version prefilled syringe tip caps (Fluzone) may contain natural rubber latex to which you may have an allergic reaction if you are allergic to latex. The intradermal version is specially designed to not hurt at all, unlike a needle in the arm version, which many find painful. Either way, your choice of vaccination this year will have the same combination of flu virus.

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