Health Team

Doctors: With season nearly here, don't wait to get the flu vaccine

Posted September 27, 2016 10:56 a.m. EDT
Updated September 27, 2016 11:14 a.m. EDT

Hundreds of thousands of people come down with the flu each year.

For most people, it's an unpleasant illness that keeps them home for a few days, but for a significant number of others, it can lead to life-threatening complications.

That's why doctors recommend getting the flu shot early.

This year, there are some changes to the vaccine that people will notice when they make an appointment to get vaccinated.

"There is a new vaccine that's available for people 65 years and older that has what's called adjuvant in it," Dr. Susan Rehm, with the Cleveland Clinic, said. "This is an added chemical to help it work better."

There is also another vaccine product produced without egg products that is available for those who have egg allergies.

Another change for 2016 is how the vaccine will be delivered – say goodbye to the familiar nasal spray that many people get.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed flu vaccine data for the last couple of years and found that the spray was largely ineffective.

The 2016 batches of flu vaccine are also designed to fight four strains of flu rather than three.

When it comes to scheduling, Rehm says people shouldn't wait until the middle of fall to get vaccinated.

"It's really important for people to take the flu vaccine as early in the season as they can," she said. "It takes at least two weeks for antibodies to show up after the vaccine's been given. The sooner you take the vaccine, the sooner you'll be protected."

The following groups of people are at higher risk for developing life-threatening complications as a result of the flu virus:

  • People 65 and older
  • Children younger than 5 years old; those under 2 are at even higher risk
  • Children under 6 months old (doctors don't recommend they be vaccinated, so family members should always get the vaccine)
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • People with chronic medical conditions like asthma, COPD, heart disease or diabetes
  • People with compromised immune systems as a result of HIV or cancer
  • Pregnant women