Time to get seasonal flu shot

As peak flu season approaches in December and January, Dr. Kiran Kumar, director of primary healthcare, is recommending that people on Island get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Vaccine for the seasonal flu is now available at the Cayman Islands Hospital, district health centres, Faith Hospital and Little Cayman clinic.

This year’s flu vaccine will also protect against the 2009 H1N1 pandemic flu, Dr. Kumar said.

He pointed out that the vaccine is effective only for one season, and urges everyone from age six months and older to get the flu vaccine.

An annual vaccine is especially important for people at high risk for complications from influenza and those who live with or care for them, he said.

“To minimise workplace disruption and ensure that as many persons as possible get vaccinated,” Dr. Kumar said, the Public Health Department will continue its onsite workplace vaccinations for companies with 20 or more employees who would like to have the vaccine.

Where is it available?

The flu vaccine will be available at:

The General Practice Clinic at the Cayman Islands Hospital, Faith Hospital in Cayman Brac and all district health centres, from 2pm to 4pm Monday through Friday.

The Little Cayman Clinic. Residents of Little Cayman should contact the clinic to make arrangements.

The Cayman Islands Hospital Atrium (next to the Pharmacy) through Friday, 14 October, from 10am to noon.

The vaccine is free to all residents. No appointments are necessary, but please indicate to the registration officer at the clinic that you are there for the flu shot.

Companies interested in the program should contact the Public Health Department at 244-2648 to register.

Q & A:

Why should people get vaccinated against the flu?

Influenza (“flu”) is a contagious disease. It is caused by the influenza virus, which can be spread by coughing, sneezing or nasal secretions. Anyone can get influenza, but rates of infection are highest among children. For most people, symptoms last only a few days. They include: fever, sore throat, chills, fatigue, cough, headache and muscle aches.

Other illnesses can have the same symptoms and are often mistaken for influenza.

Who should not get vaccinated or wait?

The following people should not be vaccinated without first consulting their physician:

Children younger than six months

People who have severe allergy to chicken or chicken eggs (the flu vaccine virus is grown on hens’ eggs)

People with known allergy to systemic Neomycin

People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination in the past

People who developed Guillian-Barre’ syndrome (GBS) within six weeks of getting a vaccine previously

People who have a moderate or severe illness with a fever should wait to get vaccinated.

Nursing mothers should inform their doctor or nurse that they are breast feeding before taking the flu shot.

What kind of flu vaccine is available?

The flu shot is administered by injection, usually in the arm.

How does flu vaccine work?

Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine. It takes up to two weeks for the protection to develop after the shot. Protection lasts about a year.

Children ages six months to eight years who are being vaccinated for the first time need a second dose four weeks later in order to be protected.

Can I get the flu even though I got a flu vaccine?

Yes.

People may be exposed to an influenza virus shortly before getting vaccinated or during the two-week period that it takes the body to gain protection after getting vaccinated.

People may become ill from other (non-flu) viruses that circulate during the flu season, which can also cause flu-like symptoms (such as rhinovirus).

A person may be exposed to an influenza virus that is not included in the seasonal flu vaccine.

Unfortunately, some people can remain unprotected from flu despite getting the vaccine. This is more likely to occur among people that have weakened immune systems.

Can the flu shot give me the flu?

No, a flu shot cannot cause flu illness. The viruses contained in flu shots are inactivated (killed), which means they cannot cause infection.

The risk of a flu shot causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.

What are the side effects that could occur?

Common problems: Soreness, redness or swelling where the shot was given; hoarseness, sore, red or itchy eyes; cough, fever, aches. If these problems occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and last one to two days.

For more information please call the Public Health Clinic at 244-2648.

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