You know how you all have been diligently and responsibly coming into the office to get your flu vaccine? Apparently a lot of people think that the flu vaccine prevents the stomach flu….unfortunately it does not. The stomach flu is caused by a variety of different viruses which cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and sometimes fever and body aches. I don’t have to tell you that it is a miserable illness, we’ve all had it in one form or another, more than once for most of us.
Influenza is different. It too is a virus and it too makes you feel horribly sick but its symptoms are high fever for 3-5 days, significant cough and runny nose, along with head and body aches. Influenza infects the entire respiratory tract and that is why cough is such a dominant feature. Many people develop pneumonia and about 32,000 people die from Influenza every year. There are two major types of the virus, Influenza A and B, and often both are present in large numbers in the community. Each season the subtypes of both the A and B forms of the virus change a little and that is why the vaccine needs to be given each year. The strains that are floating around this year are different than last year and different than the year before and even different than the strains ten years ago.
The CDC and vaccine manufacturers have to make an educated guess as to which strains will be the ‘ones’ for the coming year and choose 3 different subtypes to focus on. Sometimes their guess is right on the money and sometimes they are off base completely. Even in the years when the guess is completely wrong, people who receive the vaccine have milder cases of the illness than those who don’t so there is something beneficial about getting it even in the ‘off’ years.
In my practice, I ordered 200 doses of vaccine for people 3 years old and above, 100 doses of vaccine for children under 36 months and 50 doses of the flumist I have almost none left. I am ordering some more for the little kids since I have a bunch who need their second dose and I am hoping I can get more of the flumist and/or preservative free vaccine for the 3 and up crowd. Since I have about 900 patients in the practice thus far, my rate of vaccination is about 40%. The rate I would like to see is about 60% and I am hoping that those of you who are choosing not to get the flu vaccine this year will answer the following survey to help me better understand why you are not interested in getting the vaccine this season. I also have a survey below for those of you who have yet to receive the flu vaccine this year but want it so I can determine how much more to order. Have fun and thanks in advance for completing the surveys!
Do the surveys, run 3 miles, and get a good night’s sleep and each day will be your best!
Molly O’Shea, MD Birmingham Pediatrics + Wellness Center