MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year on average roughly five to 20 percent of U.S. residents contract the flu, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized due to flu-related complications. The West Virginia University School of Pharmacy encourages those that have not already done so to get their flu shot this week, which is National Influenza Vaccination Week (Dec. 8-14).
“Flu season can start as early as October and runs through March, with its peak often taking place in February,” Gretchen Garofoli, Pharm.D., clinical assistant professor in the WVU Department of Clinical Pharmacy, said. “It is recommended that everyone over the age of six months receives the vaccine, unless they are allergic to eggs or have had a serious reaction to the flu vaccine in the past.”
People who receive the flu vaccine cannot get the flu from it. Side effects, such as a sore arm at the site of the vaccination, low-grade fever, muscle aches, or a headache, are common and can make individuals think they have the flu. Those who received the vaccine last year still need to get one this year, too. The flu is a contagious virus that constantly changes and each year, new vaccinations are created to protect against the current virus.
“The flu vaccine takes about two weeks to fully protect an individual who receives it, so it’s best that you get the vaccine as soon as it becomes available,” Dr. Garofoli said.
Garofoli also provides patient care services, such as diabetes management and immunizations, in community pharmacy practice, and knows how important it is that community members receive their flu vaccine.
“As a community pharmacist, I feel very strongly about ensuring the public is vaccinated against the flu,” she said. “I travel to area business and senior living facilities to provide vaccines to those who are not able to visit the pharmacy.”
Flu vaccinations are offered in many locations and are available at local pharmacies. Adults who would like to obtain their vaccination at a local pharmacy should speak with the pharmacist about cost and insurance coverage. Most pharmacies can provide vaccines on a walk-in basis during normal business hours.