Flu Season 2019-2020: Time for your immunization!

It is the start of flu season in the northern hemisphere. Time to think about where YOU are going to be getting your seasonal flu shot (vaccine is available now and you should get your flu shot ASAP this year).

Remember that pulmonary infections and respiratory failure remain the #1 cause of death long-term in SCI, and it is very easy for the flu to turn into pneumonia or ARDS for someone with a SCI. Every year, 40,000 people in the USA die from seasonal flu. While the flu shot is not a 100% guarantee you will not get the flu, if you do, and were immunized, it will be less severe.

While flu activity usually peaks in January or February, the flu itself is unpredictable. And although there are many different flu viruses, the yearly flu vaccine protects against the three (standard) or four (high dose) viruses that research suggests will be most common that flu season.

Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year, especially if you are at high risk for complications or you live with or care for someone who is, including the following groups. The "high dose" (Fluzone High-Dose (HD-IIV3)) is recommended for those the highlighted group:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
  • People 50 years of age and older
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (including SCI and spinal cord diseases).
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:
  • Health care workers
  • Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu
  • Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)

When and how often should I get vaccinated? Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every year by the end of October, if possible. However, getting vaccinated later is OK. Vaccination should continue throughout the flu season, even in January or later. Some children who have received flu vaccine previously and children who have only received one dose in their lifetime, may need two doses of flu vaccine. A health care provider can advise on how many doses a child should get.