Among majority of Americans, getting the annual flu vaccine is a routine procedure; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 59% of children and 44% of adults in the United States get the seasonal flu shot. But for many, getting vaccinated can be anything but routine for many reasons, such as the doubts about the costs, benefits, and risks of the vaccine.
Here are a few of the practical matters that must be considered when getting vaccinated against the flu virus. Keep in mind that every individual has the right to refuse the flu vaccine but every adult also has the responsibility of contributing to the government’s public health programs.
Who Should and Should Not Get the Shot
Not everybody should get the annual flu vaccine, either in its injection or nasal spray form, for health reasons. You should first ask your doctor about your suitability for the vaccine before consenting to it – or in case of a child, ask his/her pediatrician about the matter.
According to the CDC, everybody 6 months old and above should be vaccinated against the flu. Since there are different flu shots approved for people of different ages, including infants as young as 6 months old, as well as for people with chronic health conditions and for pregnant women, it is not an issue per se. For example, the high-dose flu shot will only be administered to people 65 years old and above while the intradermal flu shot will be injected into the 18 to 64 year old bracket.
People who cannot be vaccinated with the injectable form include:
- Infants younger than 6 months. The best protection against the flu for infants is for possibly infected adults to keep their distance, among other precautionary measures.
- People with a history of life-threatening, severe allergies to any of the ingredients in the flu vaccine as well as to eggs. The ingredients include antibiotics and gelatine.
While the nasal spray vaccine is generally safe for healthy individuals belonging to the 2 to 49 years old bracket, its manufacturers strongly caution against its use in people like:
- Children younger than 2 years old and adults older than 50 years
- People with a history of life-threatening allergic reaction to the vaccine’s components, as evidenced in a previous dose, as well as to eggs
- Children in the 2 to 17 years old bracket who are on aspirin-based therapy
- People with weakened or compromised immune system
- Pregnant women
- Children aged 2 to 4 years with a history of wheezing or asthma in the past 12 months prior to the inhalation
- People who have taken flu antiviral drugs in the past 48 hours
The bottom line: Always discuss your medical history including your age, history of illnesses, and allergic reactions with your doctor before agreeing to either the shot or the nasal spray vaccine. Your risks for side effects, which are rare, will be minimized in this manner.
What Can and Cannot be Covered
In compliance with the Affordable care Act, also known as ObamaCare, vaccinations should be covered by insurance providers at no cost to the consumer. But there’s a catch: You have to check with your insurance provider about the specific provisions regarding vaccination coverage as immunization may not be covered in certain locations, such as walk-in pharmacies. In this case, you should ask and compare the prices in walk-in pharmacies, such as those located in CVS and Walgreens, before getting your annual flu shot.
Setting realistic expectations of the flu shot is also a must. You have to remember that it will take around 2 weeks for your body to gain protection against the flu after the vaccination. You will also not have 100% protection against the virus since the average effectiveness rate ranges from 50 to 60% – then again, it is better than zero protection.