The National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) is a national awareness week focused on highlighting the importance of influenza vaccination. This is the week (December 4-10, 2016) to get your flu shot and defend against symptoms and illnesses caused by influenza. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC established NIVW in 2005 to establish the importance of continuing flu vaccination through the holiday season and beyond.
Flu vaccination coverage estimates from past seasons have shown few people actually get vaccinated after the end of November. Only about 40% of the US population. Last season only about 40% of the US population recommended to get a flu vaccine reported having been vaccinated by the end of November. CDC and its partners choose December for NIVW to remind people that even though the holiday season has begun, it is not too late to get a flu vaccine. As long as flu viruses are spreading and causing illness, vaccination should continue throughout the flu season in order to protect as many people as possible against the flu. Even if you haven’t yet been vaccinated and have already gotten sick with flu, you can still benefit from vaccination since the flu vaccine protects against three or four different flu viruses (depending on which flu vaccine you get).
Another goal of NIVW is to communicate the importance of flu vaccination for people who are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications:
- Young children under 5, and especially those under 2 years
- Adults older than 65
- Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- Pregnant women and women up to two weeks postpartum
- People with weakened immune systems
- People who have chronic illnesses, such as asthma, heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes
- People who are very obese; with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher
For people at high risk, getting the flu can be more serious than for other people. Flu is more likely to lead to hospitalization or death for people at high risk. Flu vaccine uptake estimates among adults 50 years and older fell by 3 percentage points last year. That means many more adults were left vulnerable to flu and its complications. Anyone who gets flu can pass it to someone at high risk of severe illness, including infants younger than 6 months who are too young to get the vaccine.
CDC recommends use of the flu shot (inactivated influenza vaccine or IIV) and the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV). The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) should not be used during 2016-2017.
People who should NOT receive a flu shot include children younger than 6 months old and people with severe, life-threatening allergies to flu vaccine or any of its ingredients. There are certain flu shots that have different age indications. For example people younger than 65 years of age should not get the high-dose flu shot and people who are younger than 18 years old or older than 64 years old should not get the intradermal flu shot. The intradermal flu vaccine is a shot that is injected into the skin instead of the muscle. The intradermal shot uses a much smaller needle than the regular flu shot, and it requires fewer antigens to be as effective as the regular flu shot. Antigen is the part of the vaccine that helps your body build up antibodies that provide protection against flu viruses.
People with egg allergies can now receive any licensed, recommended age-appropriate influenza vaccine and no longer have to be monitored for 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine. People who have severe egg allergies should be vaccinated in a medical setting and be supervised by a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic conditions.
A common misconception or myth about receiving a flu shot is that the vaccination can give you the flu. This is not true…The flu shot can cause mild side effects that are sometimes mistaken for flu. For example, people sometimes experience a sore arm where the shot was given. The needle stick may also cause some soreness at the injection site. Rarely, people who get the flu shot have fever, muscle pain, and feelings of discomfort or weakness. If experienced at all, these effects usually last 1-2 days after vaccination and are much less severe than actual flu illness.
Like all other treatments for illness, you should consult with your doctor and get the proper information. The vaccination process is a necessary step towards preventing the flu, but you can also include other measures to keep yourself healthy during flu season. Basic steps to fight influenza and its symptoms include avoiding close contact with others who are sick, staying home when you are sick, cover your mouth and nose, clean your hands, and practice good health habits.
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