NEW ORLEANS — The flu vaccine is here in local pharmacies and doctors' offices. And this year it has protection against four strains.
So, should you wait until the winter to get one, or get it now?
"Mr. Frank" will be 97 in a few months, but age doesn't predict behavior. He likes to bet on horses, look at pretty women to keep his eyesight sharp, and watch Jeopardy! to keep his mind sharp. Thursday, he played seven holes of golf.
When asked what his handicap is, Frank Azzarello Jr. laughed, “Money. I guess you would say I was a golf hustler.”
And he came to Majoria Drugs on Tuesday for preventive medicine.
"They say you're gonna need a flu shot every year. I go get one every year,” said Azzarello.
“We've been seeing a number of people coming in. We're doing about 25 or 30 shots a day,” said Majoria pharmacist Al Spitale.
While there are some cases of flu in this area, the peak is around Christmas to Mardi Gras.
“September and October are the months to get vaccinated, certainly no later than the end of October in order to have immunity in the height of the flu season,” explained Dr. Fred Lopez, an infectious diseases specialist at LSU Health Sciences Center.
The vaccine is for everyone six months and older. That's because each year in the U.S, 12,000 to 52,000 people, of all ages, even healthy, young people, die of the flu. People who have lung, heart disease or obesity, and pregnant women are at a higher risk of complications.
And if you're 65 and older, you get the high dose vaccine that's meant to stimulate a weaker immune system to produce more antibodies.
“It’s designed to prevent serious complications, hospitalizations, and deaths. In fact, this year the CDC has a mantra that it's using, taking it from wild to mild,” said Dr. Lopez.
The flu vaccine has long been tested. It's been around since 1940. It has dead, inactivated virus in it. So, it cannot make you sick. It just teaches your immune system to make fighter cells to be ready for an attack.
“Flu vaccine is 99.9999 percent safe, if not 100 percent safe,” Spitale added.
Studies show that reasons people don't get the flu shot each year is because they have not had flu in the past and don't think they can get infected, or they are concerned about the vaccine.