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It’s not too late to get a flu shot, experts say

CHICAGO -- With an earlier than expected peak in cases, is it too late to get a flu shot? The numbers are spiking but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to protect yourself from the flu.

The emergency room at Lurie Children’s Hospital was filled with flu patients on Monday. It was no surprise considering the multiple outbreaks across the state in recent weeks. But the message from infectious disease expert Dr. Tina Tan is clear – get your flu shot.

“It’s still effective and it’s effective against a major strain of the organism that’s circulating, H3N2 organism influenza a so individuals who have not been vaccinated need to get vaccinated and continue to get vaccinated,” she said.

At Walgreen’s, pharmacist Danielle Soriano administers about five flu shots per day – that’s down from the 10 to 20 she gave out earlier in the season.

The flu vaccine protects against three to four strains. One of the most common is H3N2. Right now experts believe this year’s vaccine is 32 to 35 percent effective against H3H2, with slightly higher effectiveness against the other strains. Typically experts see a 50 to 70 percent effectiveness rate. But don’t let the numbers discourage you. Even if the vaccine doesn’t work perfectly, it diminishes the severity of illness and helps slow the spread of disease.

“All of our flu shots are inactivated meaning they are dead. There is no way for them to make the flu inside of you. One of the possible side effects could be flu-like symptoms like low grade fever or body aches but that really would only last 24 hours that’s just your immune system getting excited,” Soriano said.

Immunity develops two weeks after getting the flu shot. So there’s a risk of exposure even after you get vaccinated. And those 65 and older need to consider the flu shot – that’s the group at highest risk for complications, particularly with this year’s strains.