It's time to get a flu shot

By Ileana Varela

FIU Health Certified Medical Assistant John Delian readies a flu shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging Americans to get vaccinated before Halloween.

“It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body, and you want to be protected when influenza activity begins to pick up,” explains Dr. Dorothy Contiguglia-Akcan, a family medicine physician at FIU Health, the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine’s on-campus faculty group practice.

The exact timing, severity and duration of flu season varies each year, but December through February tend to be peak months, and influenza activity can last as late as May.

Who should get vaccinated?
The CDC recommends everyone 6 months of age or older should get a flu shot unless there’s a health reason why they shouldn’t be vaccinated—like a history of allergic reactions to the flu shot. It is especially important that people at high-risk for flu-related complications, get vaccinated.

“Most people who get sick from the flu will suffer only a mild illness that will go away within a couple of weeks, but young children, the elderly, pregnant women, people with chronic illnesses that can be worsened by the flu, can end up in the hospital — and even die,” says Contiguglia.

Dorothy Contiguglia-Akcan, MD

Why do I need a flu vaccine every year?
Everyone must be re-vaccinated every year because the flu viruses change each year. The CDC says this season’s vaccines have been updated to better match circulating viruses.

Can I get the flu from the flu vaccine?
No. Flu vaccines do not give you the flu. Except for the nasal spray flu vaccine, none of the currently recommended flu vaccines contain live flu virus, and the viruses contained in the nasal spray vaccine are attenuated (weakened), so that they will not cause influenza. Sometimes, flu vaccines can cause localized swelling or pain in the arm, or even generalized muscles aches, fatigue and headache.

“This is not the flu,” says Contiguglia. “It’s actually your immune system doing its job and reacting to the vaccine.” These side effects are usually mild and short-lasting.

Where to get a flu shot at FIU?
FIU Health for faculty, staff and the general public. Call 305-348-DOCS (305-348-3627).
Student Health Services for students. Call 305-348-2401 (MMC) or 305-919-5620 (BBC).