Allercy and Asthma Health
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The Official Publication of AAN - MA

What’s New with the Flu?

Peanut

By Claire Aloan, MS, RRT-NPS, FAARC

Yes, it’s that time again, when we all need to be thinking about protecting ourselves and our loved ones from the latest version of the “flu bug,” or influenza virus. Once again the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided us with their latest advice regarding the flu vaccine. Updates include what the newest vaccine will contain and what is expected to be available for the upcoming season (2015-2016), as well as some new information on the vaccine dose for children aged six months through eight years. There are also some changes in the recommendations for use of different versions of the vaccine in healthy children.

You can read all of the latest recommendations on the CDC website, but here are the highlights.

Who needs the vaccine? The CDC recommends that everyone over six months of age receive the influenza vaccine, unless there are specific reasons why it can’t be given. The best time to get the vaccine is before flu season begins (usually October) but it can be given any time throughout the flu season. For children ages six months to eight years, the CDC now advises that two doses should be given to any child who has not received two previous doses of the vaccine. The first dose should be given before flu season, if possible, and the second dose at least four weeks later. Children who have received two doses at any time before this past July will need only one dose this year.
 
What’s new with the vaccines? Several new vaccine products are expected to be available this year. Most vaccines are a type called inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV). Afluria is a relatively new IIV that is administered with a needle-free jet injector for those between the ages of 18 and 64. It may also be given by needle and syringe like all other IIVs.

Flublok, which is a recombinant influenza vaccine, trivalent, or RIV3, is now approved for anyone over 18. It was previously limited to those between 18 and 49.

A nasal spray form of vaccine called FluMist (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) has been recommended for healthy children, rather than the inactivated vaccine. This year, however, the recommendation has been changed, and either form of the vaccine (LAIV or IIV) is acceptable for healthy children.

What if you or your child has a chronic medical condition like asthma? Asthma increases the risk for complications from influenza. In general, anyone with asthma may also have a reaction to the LAIV, and should probably receive the inactivated form of the vaccine instead. Also, if you are caring for someone who has a severe problem with immunity to infections, you should either not receive the LAIV form of the vaccine, or you should avoid caring for these persons for seven days after vaccination.

What about egg allergy? Severe allergic reactions to egg-based influenza vaccines are very uncommon. For those who have had mild reactions to eggs such as hives, most forms of the vaccine are safe, as long as they are administered by a health care provider familiar with reactions who can observe you for 30 minutes after the vaccine is given.

For those over 18 with more severe allergic reactions, RIV3 may be given. For those under 18, inactivated vaccine may be given as long as a physician is available to recognize and treat a severe reaction.

  • Every year, the flu affects 5-20% of those of us living in the United States. Many thousands need to be hospitalized because of the flu, and thousands die from flu-related causes. The health care costs for the flu are estimated at over $10 billion! So, whether you are protecting yourself or those you live with or care for, getting the flu vaccine is the right thing to do!

Claire Aloan is a member of the American Association for Respiratory Care from Rochester, NY, who currently serves as director of respiratory care services at Rochester Regional Health.

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