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Doctors urge flu vaccination as season hits

January 10, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Infectious-disease experts say it's a huge urban myth that flu vaccine in any form can give you the flu. So if you're one of the 14 percent planning to get a flu shot, you'll have to shop around because many doctors offices, clinics and pharmacies are reporting a run on supplies.

"This year, I think we're right on the cusp of a major flu season, and there's going to be some panic, unfortunately," said infectious-disease specialist Dr. Stanley Shapiro.

Like many hospitals and doctors offices, Kaiser Permanente Panorama City Medical Center is experiencing a flu vaccine rush.

Dr. Shapiro says it's never too late to get the shot. But if you get sick shortly after, you can't blame the vaccine, since it doesn't contain a live virus.

"Patients who get the vaccine and then within 24 hours don't feel well, have fever, they were probably incubating another viral illness," said Shapiro.

The popular FluMist nasal vaccine does contain a live attenuated virus. It can cause symptoms such as fever following inoculation, but Dr. Shapiro says it's nothing like the flu.

It takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to become completely effective. And experts say even if you do get the flu, it can still protect you.

"People certainly do get influenza after getting vaccinated, but my impression is that it's generally an attenuated illness," said Shapiro.

With the flu hitting early and hard in 40 states across the country, experts say we probably have not hit the peak.

While hand-washing and cough etiquette help prevent the spread, doctors remind us that the vaccine can save lives.

"If a little scare brings them in to get the flu shot -- great. They can get it even if they just have a cold," said internal-medicine specialist Dr. Richard Silverstein.

Doctors tell us even if you're feeling a little under the weather with a runny nose, you can still get a flu shot. They just don't want you to have a fever.


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