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Flu vaccine; be informed

  • By L. Morgan Dykes, Pharm.D.

    Friday, October 7, 2016

    L. Morgan Dykes, Pharm.D. UMES 2014DELMAR, Del. - (Oct. 7, 2016) - Autumn brings many wonderful things to us: pumpkins, crisp air and colorful foliage. Unfortunately, it also brings the annual risk of the flu. With flu and pneumonia viruses being the eighth leading cause of death in the United States, it is important for us to educate ourselves and others so we can protect our loved ones, our community and ourselves.

    The Delaware Division of Public Health recorded more than 2,000 positive cases of the flu during the 2015-16 flu season, and Maryland's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recorded over 1,500 confirmed cases. To reduce flu illness and prevent flu-related hospitalizations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone 6 months of age and older receive the flu vaccine by the end of October.

    This year's flu vaccine has been updated to better match circulating viruses to offer the best chance of protection. There also have been a few modifications to recommendations for the approaching 2016-17 season. Nasal spray flu vaccines no longer are recommended and should not be administered due to low effectiveness.

    The three most common flu vaccines are:  

    • the standard trivalent (protects against the three most likely strains of the flu for that particular season),  
    • the quadrivalent (protects against an extra strain of the flu virus), and  
    • the high-dose, which provides extra protection for those persons 65 years of age and older 

    It is important to know these flu vaccines are not live viruses and therefore will not make you sick or give you the flu. Another change this year is that people with a history of egg allergy should receive any licensed and recommended vaccine otherwise appropriate for their age and health status. Depending on the severity of the allergy, you may need to have it administered in a clinical setting by a medical professional who can observe you for 15 minutes and manage any allergic reactions.

    Stephen Southern receives a flu vaccine from Morgan Dykes, Pharm.D.With pharmacists trained as immunization experts and certified to administer vaccines, this is the ideal time to get to know your local pharmacist. He or she will be able to help choose the right vaccine for you, answer any questions or address concerns you may have - and best of all, administer the vaccine right at the pharmacy.

    You do not need to make an appointment. It takes just a few minutes, and the flu vaccine is free with most insurance plans. As a community pharmacist, I can attest to the fact we look forward to this time of year. We eagerly embrace the opportunity to step out from behind the pharmacy counter to share our knowledge and expertise and interact with our community.

    Across Delmarva, you just may encounter graduates as well as student pharmacists from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore's School of Pharmacy in your community sharing information like this and providing immunizations at local events.

    Besides the flu vaccine, pharmacists can also administer vaccines to protect against many other vaccine-preventable diseases, including meningitis, whooping cough, tetanus, shingles and pneumonia.

    Protect yourself and your community this year by getting your flu vaccine so you can enjoy all the other wonderful aspects of the season. And take the opportunity to get to know your pharmacist -  October is American Pharmacists Month  . We are excited, proud and grateful to serve you. 

    The writer is a certified immunizer and pharmacy manager with Walgreens in Delmar, Del. She is a 2014 graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.