A veteran when it comes to the flu shot, Kyra Frey has been getting vaccinated since the first grade. This year marks her 16th shot.
Frey’s sister has a suppressed immune system, so the entire family has to be careful about bringing viruses into their home. By getting her annual flu shot, Frey might not only prevent herself from getting sick, but also her sister.
Unfortunately, Frey waited too long last fall.
“I got the flu a week after I got the flu shot last November, so I knew I hadn’t gotten it soon enough,” said Frey, a senior biology major at the University of Florida.
The flu season officially began Oct. 1. Medical practitioners recommend getting the shot as soon as the vaccine is available.
However, getting the shot doesn’t guarantee you won’t get sick.
Despite the low efficacy of last season’s flu vaccine, doctors still encourage patients to get vaccinated to prevent severe illnesses related to the flu.
“The shot is still protection for negative health consequences, meaning people who are hospitalized,” said Nadia Kovacevich, an epidemiologist with the Alachua County Health Department. “You don’t see an increase in people dying.”
It takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop in the body after vaccination. That is why many experts and doctors say it is better to get vaccinated early in the fall, before the likely peak of the flu season.
When and where the flu hits hardest often depends on geography, temperature and the amount of contact between people.
“Anytime when you are indoors and congregated together you have more possibility to come in contact with any illness,” Kovacevich said. “Typically when it gets colder is when people tend to be more indoors and in contact with other people.”
This year’s reformulated flu vaccination includes an added B-strain, which was the most prevalent strand last season.
“Whether it’s 5 or 50 or 95 percent effective, something rather than nothing helps with the flu virus,” said Catherine Seemann, spokesperson for the Student Health Care Center at UF. “Even if you contract the virus, you are less likely to get severe symptoms.”
Vaccinations are usually available on a walk-in basis at most pharmacies, including CVS, Publix and Walgreens.
Frey got this season’s flu shot yesterday at the Walgreens on Northwest 13th Street in Gainesville.
“I hope I got the vaccination early enough so that I don’t have to miss school again and worry about seeing my sister,” Frey said.