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November 6, 2017

Forgot to get your vaccine back in the fall and think it’s too late to get one?

Well according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you can still get your flu vaccine while the virus is still going around. So even though the flu season begins most of the time at the start of October, it peaks during the first two months of the year and can go on as far as May

The FDA ensures the vaccines produced every year are safe and actually work, and this work begins long before the next flu season begins because it often occurs while the current flu season is going on. Thus, the task of assuring vaccines are safe and effective is a year-round endeavor.

Why do we need new vaccines every year?

Dr. Marion Gruber, director of the Office of Vaccine Research and Review for the FDA states that there are sound reasons for why the flu vaccine has to be new each year.

Gruber tells us that because the virus mutates each year, a vaccine has to be created that closely resembles the new strain going around because the previous year’s vaccine loses effectiveness as time passes by.

Identifying likely virus strains

During the month of February—the peak of the current flu season—the World Health Organization, FDA and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) gather worldwide data to determine the next flu season’s makeup. Their findings will determine which strains are used to produce the next US vaccine.

Studying the virus strains allows the makers of the vaccines to create a matching vaccine that provides better protection.

The FDA also examine the companies making the vaccines regularly to assist in making sure these companies vaccines are effective. Reagents are prepared by the FDA and distributed to these companies to standardize the vaccines and ensure they have the right dosage strength. Each year, the manufacturing facility has to undergo an approval process to verify each lot of vaccines is appropriate for use.

The people impacted the most by the flu

According to the studies conducted yearly by the CDC, children and the elderly are the two populations that are impacted the most by the flu even though other populations may be greatly affected as well (for instance young and middle-aged adults).

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Winter and fall seem to be the most vulnerable times for getting contagious viruses because we tend to share more indoor time with other people when the weather starts cooling down.

However, there are plenty of FDA-approved medicines and vaccines you can take to combat these ailments.

Colds and Flu

A lot of respiratory infections go away as soon as they surface—often within a matter of a couple of days. There are some that are more lasting and can create serious health issues. Tobacco users and people who are around secondhand smoke often are more likely to experience respiratory infections and more serious complications than nonsmokers and nontobacco users.

Colds typically cause a runny or stuffy nose and sneezing. Sometimes, other symptoms are present like watery eyes, coughing and a scratchy throat. These are often spread through infected mucus and often gradually occur. To date, there is no vaccine available that combats a cold.

The Flu arrives suddenly and lasts a longer time than colds do. Signs of the flu are chills, fever, headache, body aches, dry cough, tiredness and overall discomfort. You can also have cold symptoms like runny or stuffy nose, watery eyes and sneezing. Some children have nausea and vomiting with the flu. This virus is contagious and spreads from droplets that occur when people with the flu talk, sneeze or cough. Touching a surface that has the flu virus can also cause you to catch the flu.

The time between the months of October and May is considered the Flu season in the United States with peaks time between December and February. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that:

  • Every year over 200,000 Americans experience hospital-related episodes from the flu (20,000 of these are children under age 5).
  • Between the 2014-15 flu season, 40 million flu-related conditions occurred. There were about 19 million flu-related healthcare visits and 970,000 flu-related hospitalizations, which was a record high for one flu season.
  • Between 1976 and 2006, there were between 3,000 to 49,000 deaths reported that related to the flu.

Prevention Tips

Get vaccinated against flu.

People ages 6 months and older should get the flu vaccine in nasal spray or shot form to decrease the need to be out of work and school because of the symptoms of the flu. The vaccine may also prevent hospitalizations and deaths from this virus.

It’s best to get vaccinated each year in the month of October, but it can still provide some relief if taken in January and afterwards. The reason why the vaccine has to be taken every year is because the virus mutates frequently and the protection from the previous year’s vaccine starts to decrease in effectiveness. If you are prone to other complication from having the flu, then it is highly recommended you take the vaccine every year.

People at high risk for the flu are:

  • Women who are pregnant
  • Children under 5 years old (especially those under 2)
  • People 6People 65 and up
  • People with certain chronic health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart and lung disease).

If you work in the health profession or live with/care for people with weak immune systems or are over 65 years old, then it is extremely important you get vaccinated.  Pregnant mothers are advised to get the flu vaccine while pregnant so their baby can stay protected up to six months after birth. Also, make sure people who come in contact with the baby are also current with their vaccinations.

Vaccines for Children

November 5, 2016

The beginning of the school year marks a time period when parents and other caregivers are swamped with paperwork to complete from their children’s school, and many of them have concerns about their children’s vaccine schedule.

Dr. Marion Gruber, director of the office of Vaccines Research and Review for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), states that, “Parents should know that vaccines protect children from many serious illnesses from infectious diseases. The risk of being harmed by vaccines is much smaller than the risk of serious illness from infectious diseases,” she says.

The biggest complaint most children experience from vaccination is soreness around the site where they were injected. Other than that, there are no serious effects; and if they are, the instances are very rare.

Benefit of Vaccination

Childhood diseases like measles, Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) and diphtheria have become rare occurrences thanks to vaccines. Vaccines have worked wonders to make childhood diseases like smallpox and polio nonexistent in United States. Thus, the use of vaccines has prevented many children in the United States from having to suffer and die from various diseases that were once commonplace in childhood.

According to Gruber, just because vaccination has made childhood diseases of the past a very rare phenomenon, parents cannot dismiss the possibility these diseases can still occur—especially if people elect not to have their children vaccinated.

Guidelines to Follow When Having Your Child Vaccinated

Review the vaccine information sheets

The following material contains information required by law that healthcare professionals have to provide on the pros and cons of using vaccines.

Discuss the pros and cons of having your child vaccinated with your child’s physician.

It’s important to know the risks taken when parents decide not to let their children have vaccines. For example, diseases that are preventable because of vaccines (i.e. pertussis, diphtheria and measles) are known to be fatal or cause lasting harm for some children.

Notify the doctor about your child’s medical history prior to getting them vaccines.

If your child has a medical history of previous illnesses or has had an allergic reaction to vaccines in the past, then your child’s healthcare provider needs to know that. Also, tell the doctor of any known allergies your child has. If your child is allergic to eggs, then a flu vaccine could prove to be harmful or fatal to your child since eggs are used to produce flu vaccines.

People sensitive to latex may have a problem taking vaccines that are packaged in latex material. Also, you should let your child’s doctor know about vaccines your child should avoid because of a weak immune system.

Report adverse reactions

The FDA and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend all parents report any adverse reactions or other problems from taking a vaccine to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.

Healthy Winter Season

October 22, 2016

Contagious viruses are actives year round, but in the fall and winter we are the most vulnerable to them. People spend more time indoors during this time with other people and there’s a lot of cold weather. To combat viruses we can use several FDA approved vaccines and medications.

Viruses

Most respiratory viruses are gone within a few days and have no lasting effects, but some of them can cause serious health problems. People that use tobacco or get secondhand smoke, are prone to respiratory illnesses and can have more complications than nonsmoker do when exposed.

Colds

A cold usually causes sneezing, stuffed, and runny noses. There may be a scratchy throat as well as watery eyes and coughing. There’s no vaccine for a cold and they start gradually and often come from contact with infected mucus.

Flu

The flu last longer than a cold and can come on suddenly. Headache, fever, chills, body aches, dry cough, general misery, and fatigue are all symptoms of the flu. The flue may also cause a stuffy or runny nose and there may be nausea or vomiting issues. The flu is spread when people talk, sneeze or talk and spread droplets in the air. You may also get the flu by touching an infected surface that has the flu virus.

Tips for Prevention

There are rare exceptions, but everyone over six months of age should get the flu vaccine. You can get the vaccine as a nasal spray or a shot. This reduces doctor’s visits, flu illness as well as missed school or work. The vaccine also prevents hospitalization due to flu complications as well as death from the flu.

You should get the vaccine before October, but vaccines through January and other months can still offer you protection. You need an annual vaccination as the flue always changes and the vaccine needs to be updated. A person’s immune protection from the virus will decline over time. For people at high risk, an annual flu vaccine is important. These individuals include:

  • Children under five years of age, and especially those younger than two
  • Women that are pregnant
  • People that have chronic illnesses like diabetes, asthma, lung, or heart disease
  • Anyone over the age of sixty-five

Wash Hands Often

You should wash your hands often and teach your children to do this also. Colds and flu can be passed through contaminated surfaces like your hands. Soap and water are best for hygiene according to the FDA, but you can also use alcohol based hand rubs. Make sure you clean the hands and remove dirt or blood as this will make the alcohol based rub ineffective at killing bacteria.

Limit Exposure to Those that are Sick

Try to keep small children like infants away from crowds during their first few months.

Heathy Habits for Prevention

  • Make sure you eat a healthy diet
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Make sure you exercise
  • Keep tabs on your stress