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Home > Health Topics > Podcasts > Still Time for Flu Shots

Still Time for Flu Shots

January 30, 2008

William Walker, MD
Contra Costa Health Services

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Visit the Flu website to learn where to obtain a flu vaccine.

There's a good deal of discussion about the need to immunize children against infectious diseases like chicken pox and measles, but I think we've gotten complacent about what vaccines adults need. We shouldn't be, because each year in the United States, up to 50,000 adults die from vaccine-preventable diseases or their complications. In fact, it's the sixth leading cause of death.

I'm Dr. William Walker, Director of Contra Costa Health Services, and I'm here to talk to you about the importance of flu vaccine.

I've seen an evolution over the years in immunization efforts. Several decades ago, we focused primarily on those who were most at risk - the frail elderly and those with compromised immune systems for example.

More recently, we've encouraged people who have close contact with those who are most vulnerable to also get vaccinated. This includes anyone who lives with or cares for someone elderly, and someone who is a health care worker.

Young children under 5 are also at high risk of flu complications and also need the flu vaccine. To further protect children - their parents, older siblings and childcare providers should get vaccinated, too.

Pregnant women also are encouraged to get the flu shot to protect themselves and their baby. However, people who are allergic to eggs should not get the flu vaccination.

In my practice, I've also observed a change in patients' attitudes. Years ago, I had to twist people's arms (figuratively speaking of course) to get flu shots.

Now people are requesting it and are much more willing. And the nasal flu vaccine for healthy people ages 2 to 49 is widely available now for those who don't like needles.

There are still people who are reluctant. They worry that they'll get sick from the vaccine. I have patients who say they know someone who got the flu from the vaccine.

Since the flu shot is not made from a live virus, that is not possible. Any potential side effects from the shot - a low grade fever, soreness in the arm and aches - are much less severe than the illness from the influenza viruses we are now seeing. There is a slightly higher risk with the nasal vaccine but it's still very low.

For information about flu vaccinations, visit our website at Thanks for listening.

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