Doctors dish out details on flu, pneumonia shots

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The strongest part of the flu season doesn't begin for at least another month, but the CDC says flu shot season is starting this week, and recommends everyone over the age of six months get vaccinated.

Some experts say now is the time to start thinking about getting vaccinated, while other doctors suggest waiting, since the shot is only most effective for three to four months.

Dr. Reynolds with Beach Family Urgent Care is one of many doctors who believes that if you have not gotten the shot already, you should get it sometime this week. The flu season runs from October through March. A flu shot has about a seven to ten days before it is fully effective. With that in mind, Doctor Reynolds says the flu shot will last you the entire six months of the season. So getting the shot now reduces your chances of getting it when the flu season really hits hard between November and January.

On the other hand, Dr. Nirenstein with Doctor's Care in Conway says it is best to wait until the end of October to get the shot. He and many other doctors say the flu shot is really only most effective for three to four months. So you should time the shot so you are covered when the flu season is the most vicious, starting in November.

The best advice is to talk it over with your doctor. It really depends on how healthy you and your close family members are. This year's shot covers three strains of influenza, and there is a specialized shot for anyone over the age of 65 that covers four strains. There is also a nasal mist for anyone afraid of needles. Medicare, along with most insurance policies, will cover the shot.

In addition to flu shots, a vaccine for pneumonia is available. This shot is not meant for everyone, and it is not something you get every year like you would with the flu shot.

Pneumonia is normally something you see in kids younger than two years old or adults older than 65. But that does not mean if you are young that you are immune to it. It's a brutal lung disease which infects the upper respiratory tract and can spread to the blood, lungs, middle ear and nervous system.

The pneumonia vaccine protects against 23 different pneumonia bacteria, and it's only recommended that you get two in your lifetime. You should think about getting this shot if you are older than 65, or if you have an immune deficiency, diabetes, asthma, or a family member who is compromised. And if you had pneumonia last year, pharmacists say it would be good to get it now.

"Vaccinating against pneumonia is very important," says Jenna Dukes, a pharmacist at Walgreens. "Especially with the flu. Most people that come down with the flu have other issues, and that's when you are more susceptible to pneumonia as well. So it is important to get both," Dukes says.

Something else to consider: you must be healthy when you get the pneumonia shot. And it works like the flu shot, where most insurance policies cover it, and you do not need to make a reservation to get it. As long as a pharmacist is available at the pharmacy, they can help you out.

And if you need any other motivation to get your flu shot, Walgreens is promoting their "Get a shot, Give a shot" campaign. So right now, if you go to any Walgreens and get your flu shot, they will provide a life-saving vaccine for a child in a developing country through the United Nations.

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