Monday, October 7, 2013

Take a Family Flu Shot Field Trip

As winter approaches, we need to brace ourselves for the flu (also known as influenza) and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) season. One way to help reduce the chances of getting the sniffles is to get your flu shot.

Although flu shots don't guarantee that you will have a flu-free year, the vaccine can help protect you, your family and others around you.  Since the flu vaccine is intended to protect you from getting sick, it is less likely that you will be able to pass the virus on.

Lesson Learned:  Get Your Flu Shot
Last year, I got the flu shot shortly after learning that I was pregnant. My husband, Craig, waited...and waited...and waited some more.  In fact, he waited so long, that he didn't get the shot until our daughter was already in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Since Craig hadn't received the shot, he was required to wear a mask in the NICU at all times -- so he finally ended up getting one.

Unfortunately, the flu shot isn't effective until two weeks after its administration. Craig ended up catching the flu during that two-week window. He was out-of-work for an entire week -- and unable to go to the NICU during his illness. It was terrible to see him sick and heartbroken without his daily NICU visits. 

I'm sure that Craig doesn't appreciate me throwing him under the bus, but I wanted to share this story to provide a real-life example of why flu shots are so important. 

Family Flu Shot Field Trip 

Craig didn't want to take any chances this year, so we went for a family flu shot field trip this past weekend.

Many stores, including CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aide, Target, Safeway, Giant, and Shoppers, are offering the flu vaccine. The vaccine can also be obtained from your doctor.

We decided to go to our local chain drug store to obtain our flu shots, but were unsuccessful. Apparently, our health insurance company doesn't cover the brands of the flu vaccine that the store currently has in stock. This seemed strange since our insurance company is recommending that its members to go to this drug store or another large retail store for the flu vaccine. So our quest for the flu shot continued.

We left the drug store and headed to a different retail store, which recently expanded to include a medical clinic.  We were seen by a nurse practitioner who promptly administered our flu vaccines and appeared to have no problems with our insurance coverage. We were in-and-out of the clinic in under 10 minutes. 

Quick Tips

Before you get your flu shot, check with your health insurance company to determine:
  • The types and brands of the flu vaccine your health insurance company covers; and
  • The location in which the flu vaccine must be administered (i.e., our health insurance company is encouraging its members to obtain the vaccine at a specific drug store or retail store; however, my mom's health insurance company is only covering the flu vaccine if it is administered in a physician's office).
Flu Vaccine Delivery Options

There are many different flu vaccine options this year. 

Traditional flu vaccines protect against two influenza A viruses and one influenza B virus. These are called "trivalent" vaccines. Some of these vaccines are made using virus grown in eggs.  Others are egg-free, and yet others are made containing virus grown in cell culture.

In addition, flu vaccines are available to protect against four different viruses (two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses).  These are called "quadrivalent" flu vaccines.  These types of vaccines are available in the form of a shot or a nasal spray.

Although we would have liked to have been protected against four different flu viruses, we were only able to find this type of vaccine in the form of a nasal spray. The nasal spray contains a weakened live virus.  We were concerned about getting the weakened live virus since we have an immune-compromised preemie.  We didn't want to put our preemie at risk, so we opted for the intradermal trivalent flu shot. This shot contains the inactive virus and is injected into the skin instead of the muscle.  This shot also requires a much smaller needle than the regular flu shot.

Side Effects

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, side effects may occur after obtaining the flu shot.  Side effects may include: soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given, a low-grade fever, and aches. The intradermal flu shot may cause other additional mild side effects, including toughness and itching where the shot was given. These reactions typically begin shortly after receiving the shot and tend to last one or two days.

Craig hasn't had any side effects from the intradermal flu shot.  However, my arm is red and swollen in the area in which the shot was given.  I am also finding that area to be itchy.
Flu Shot Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services -


Have you obtained the flu shot?  If so, did you get a trivalent or quadrivalent flu vaccine?

1 comment:

  1. Everyone should get a flu shot, not just people with children. Protect yourself. There is nothing good about getting sick. Those families with babies shouldn't think twice about getting the shot. it is irresponsible to put your baby in jeopardy. As a friend said, a little inconvenience gives a lot of protection.