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Health Topics > Healthy Outlook > Only One Flu Vaccine This Year

Only One Flu Vaccine This Year

Published by Contra Costa Times

Posted on Wednesday, October 13, 2010
By Erika Jenssen, MPH

This flu season is different: there is no worldwide pandemic and there are no priority groups. The flu is still here and, thankfully, there is an ample supply of flu vaccine already available to anyone who wants it.

That's good news. After all the vaccines it took to protect yourself and your children from H1N1 and seasonal flu last year, you'll be happy to hear there is only one flu vaccine this year. That's because the H1N1 strain is in this year's vaccine.

Flu seasons are tricky because we never know exactly what to expect. We don't know if the flu will sicken as many people as it did last year, but we do know it will cause the same achy, queasy, feverish symptoms that last for days. Every year, thousands of people are hospitalized with the flu and many more, including previously healthy people, get seriously ill. It's best not to play the odds. Everyone older than 6 months should get vaccinated.

Like I said earlier, this flu season is different. Here is what you need to know.

Last flu season we saw H1N1 flu almost exclusively. It caused many people to get sick and some to die. H1N1 flu will be circulating this season, but we don't expect a major outbreak—especially if people get vaccinated.

You need this year's flu vaccine even if you got seasonal and H1N1 flu vaccine last year. Each flu virus and vaccine is different. Making the flu vaccine is based on the three viruses most likely to circulate in the coming year.

Some children under 9 years will need two doses of vaccine, most often because the child has never received H1N1 or seasonal flu vaccine in the past. If your child is younger than 9 years, check with your health provider to find out how many doses he or she needs.

New research suggests newborns are less likely to get the flu if their mothers got vaccinated while pregnant. Newborns are too young to get vaccinated and most likely to suffer severe complications. Thus, it is important for pregnant women and people who care for infants to get vaccinated.

Flu seasons change but the ways to protect yourself stay the same.

First and foremost, get vaccinated. It's safe and will not make you sick. The nasal spray is a good option for those who don't like needles, but it's only available to healthy people younger than 50 and not pregnant.

Talk with your health provider to get vaccinated. Flu vaccine is available at pharmacies, grocery stores and community clinics. Contra Costa Health Services will offer flu vaccine starting mid-October, including a one-day push Nov. 10 at numerous locations throughout the county. Visit for details.

Second, use good hygiene. Cover your coughs and sneezes. Wash your hands often, especially after a cough or sneeze. Remember, you can spread the flu before showing symptoms.

Third, if you get sick, stay home and limit contact with people. Resting is the best way for your body to recover. You should not need to contact your health provider unless you are pregnant, your symptoms worsen or if you have a chronic illness, such as heart disease, diabetes or asthma.

Jenssen is the Immunization Coordinator for Contra Costa Health Services, the county health department.

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