2010–11 influenza recommendations are now simple and easy to remember — everyone, every year!

In February, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on vaccine guidance, made a landmark decision establishing a universal influenza vaccine recommendation, starting with the 2010–11 influenza season. This means that all people in the United States—excluding babies younger than age six months and people with certain medical conditions—are now recommended to receive influenza vaccine every year.

The new recommendation is simple, straightforward, and easy to communicate. It eliminates the complexities of the prior recommendations, which said people should be vaccinated if they fell into any of 15 different targeted groups (a lengthy list to commit to memory). Going forward, healthcare professionals will have a very easy time deciding which of their patients are recommended for influenza vaccine. And patients will eventually come to recognize that influenza vaccine is routinely recommended for them. Now, the message is simple: everyone, every year, unless specifically contraindicated.

Here at the Immunization Action Coalition, we welcome this change. We think it will erase any uncertainties healthcare professionals and their patients may have had about who should be vaccinated, and will lead to more people than ever protecting themselves, their families, and their communities by getting immunized.

Best regards,

Deborah L. Wexler, MD

Executive Director

Immunization Action Coalition

deborah@immunize.org

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For more information about flu and flu shots click on this link to Flu.gov

Flu shots: Important if You Have Heart Disease

Flu shots are recommended for anyone with heart disease. Find out why.

If you have heart disease, flu season can be a dangerous time. Death from influenza (flu) is more common among people with heart disease than among people with any other chronic condition. Fortunately, getting a flu shot can reduce your risk of catching the flu or developing complications from the flu.

Doctors have long recommended that older adults and other high-risk groups get flu shots, but now emphasize the importance of flu shots for those with heart disease, as well. The flu shot could prevent thousands of flu-related complications and deaths every year in people who have heart disease.

Why are flu shots important for those with heart disease?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu is estimated to cause more than 36,000 deaths annually in the United States. In addition, it sends about 200,000 people to the hospital. The rate of flu-related complications is even higher for people with heart disease.

If you have heart disease, you’re at increased risk of complications from the flu — including pneumonia, respiratory failure, heart attack and death. Having the flu can also cause dehydration and worsen pre-existing conditions such as heart failure, diabetes or asthma.

Even if you get the flu despite having a flu shot, you’ll probably have a less severe case of the flu. Getting a flu shot might even lower your risk of a heart attack if you have heart disease.

Is it safe to get a flu shot if I have heart disease?

Flu shots are safe for most people who have heart disease. Get your flu vaccine injected by needle, which is usually done in the arm. Some people develop mild arm soreness at the injection site, a low-grade fever (about 99 F to 100 F, or 37 C to 38 C) or muscle aches. These side effects usually go away within a day or two.

The flu vaccine that is given by nasal spray (FluMist) isn’t recommended for people with heart disease because it’s made with live virus that can trigger flu symptoms in people with heart disease.

You shouldn’t get a flu shot if you’re allergic to eggs, or if you’ve had a serious allergic reaction to the flu vaccine in the past. If you’re sick with a fever at the time you plan to get a flu shot, your doctor may recommend waiting until you feel better to get your flu shot.

When should I get a flu shot?

If you have heart disease, get the flu shot each fall when it becomes available, usually late September through November. However, if flu shots are still available and you haven’t yet received a vaccination, you’d still benefit from getting a flu shot in January or later. That’s because the flu season doesn’t typically peak until January, February or March.

Do I have to get a flu shot from my cardiologist?

You don’t have to get your flu shot from your cardiologist. However, the American Heart Association recommends that cardiologists have the flu shot available at their clinics. The flu shot is also available through primary care doctors, some specialists and cardiology clinics, public health departments, and some pharmacies. It’s best to call ahead to determine if vaccine is available and when. Some places may require an appointment.