Health Team

Flu shots are for adults, too

Posted December 1, 2008 3:29 p.m. EST
Updated December 1, 2008 7:03 p.m. EST

In a country where vaccinations have wiped out diseases from smallpox and polio to measles, many adult Americans don't get a shot that could save their lives: the flu shot.

Many adults refuse to get routine vaccinations; for example, only about half of adults are vaccinated against tetanus.

Participation rates can be worse for those vulnerable or at high risk of getting the flu: Only 15 percent of pregnant women receive the flu vaccine.

"The new big push this year is ... not only for young children, 6 months to 2 years of age, but for all children and adolescents" to get vaccinated, said Dr. David Weber, an infectious-disease expert at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"They serve as a vector for infecting older individuals, so by immunizing children, we're hoping to give herd immunity and reduce the risk for adults."

Doctors want to dispel what they call myths about the flu shot.

Myth No. 1: It can give you the flu. Experts say the shot simply doesn't do that.

Myth No. 2: the flu shot hurts. Doctors say they use a tiny, 25-gauge needle, and the shot is over in a second. A Band-Aid is optional.

Flu season runs until May, with cases typically peaking in February. It takes two weeks for the vaccine to become fully effective.

The Wake and Durham county health departments are offering flu vaccinations. In Wake, call 919-250-4555; in Durham, call 919-560-7378.